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Chimpanzees Communicate Through Gestures To Achieve Common Goal

New study shows chimpanzees capable of communicating through gestures and pointing to achieve a common goal

  • New study used two chimpanzees and a human

  • New study showed chimpanzees coordinating with the human


Chimpanzees communicate through gestures
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A new study indicates that chimpanzees are capable of using gestures to communicate pertinent information, such as where to find a hidden piece of food.  The new study by Georgia State University tested two language trained chimpanzees in their study.

Senior research scientist, Charles Menzel, tested how the two language trained chimpanzees communicated during this study.  A task was created in which the two chimpanzees and a human needed to coordinate in order to locate hidden food.

As the task began, the human did not know the location of the hidden food.  Through various gestures and pointing motions, the chimps guided the human to the location of the food.

The results stand as the most convincing evidence yet that chimpanzees can communicate in order to coordinate actions to achieve a specific goal.

“It allows the chimpanzees to communicate information in the manner of their choosing, but also requires them to initiate and to persist in communication.  The chimpanzees used gestures to recruit the assistance of an otherwise uninformed person and to direct the person to hidden objects 10 or more meters away. Because of the openness of this paradigm, the findings illustrate the high level of intentionality chimpanzees are capable of, including their use of directional gestures. This study adds to our understanding of how well chimpanzees can remember and communicate about their environment,” states Charles Menzel

“Previous findings in both wild and captive chimpanzees have indicated flexibility in their gestural production, but the more complex coordination task used here demonstrates the considerable cognitive abilities that underpin chimpanzee communication,” states Dr. Sarah-Jane Vick of the University of Stirling.

“This flexible use of pointing, taking into account both the location of the food and the actions of the experimenter, has not been observed in chimpanzees before,” Dr. Sam Roberts of the University of Chester said.

The study has been published in Nature Communications.


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