Summary: Researchers report chimps and bonobos take turns when it comes to gestural communication.
Source: Max Planck Institute.
Gestural communication in bonobos and chimpanzees shows turn-taking and clearly distinguishable communication styles.
Human language is a fundamentally cooperative enterprise, embodying fast-paced interactions. It has been suggested that it evolved as part of a larger adaptation of humans’ unique forms of cooperation. In a cross-species comparison of bonobos and chimpanzees, scientists from the Humboldt Research Group of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen now showed that communicative exchanges of our closest living relatives, the great apes resemble cooperative turn-taking sequences in human conversation.
Human communication is one of the most sophisticated signalling systems, being highly cooperative and including fast interactions. The first step into this collective endeavour can already be observed in early infancy, well before the use of first words, when children start to engage in turn-taking interactional practices embodying gestures to communicate with other individuals. One of the predominant theories of language evolution thus suggested that the first fundamental steps towards human communication were gestures alone.
The research team of Marlen Fröhlich and Simone Pika of the Humboldt Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology together with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, the Ludwig- Maximilians-University in Munich and the Kyoto University in Japan, conducted the first systematic comparison of communicative interactions in mother-infant dyads of two different bonobo and two different chimpanzee communities in their natural environments.
The bonobos were studied over the duration of two years in the Salonga National Park and Luo Scientific Reserve in the Democratic Rebublic of Congo. The chimpanzees were observed in the Taï National Park, Côte D’Ivoire, and Kibale National Park in Uganda.
The results showed that communicative exchanges in both species resemble cooperative turn-taking sequences in human conversation. However, bonobos and chimpanzees differ in their communication styles. “For bonobos, gaze plays a more important role and they seem to anticipate signals before they have been fully articulated” says Marlen Froehlich, first author of the study.
In contrast, chimpanzees engage in more time-consuming communicative negotiations and use clearly recognizable units such as signal, pause and response. Bonobos may therefore represent the most representative model for understanding the prerequisites of human communication. “Communicative interactions of great apes thus show the hallmarks of human social action during conversation and suggest that cooperative communication arose as a way of coordinating collaborative activities more efficiently,” says Simone Pika, head of the study.
About this neuroscience research article
Funding: A Dissertation Fieldwork Grant of the Wenner-Gren Foundation to M.F., a Research Grant of the Leakey Foundation to P.K. and a Sofja-Kovalevskaja Award of the Humboldt Foundation to S.P. generously supported the project.
Source: Marlen Fröhlich – Max Planck Institute Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Max Planck Institute press release. Original Research: Full open access research for “Unpeeling the layers of language: Bonobos and chimpanzees engage in cooperative turn-taking sequences.” by Marlen Fröhlich, Paul Kuchenbuch, Gudrun Müller, Barbara Fruth, Takeshi Furuichi, Roman M. Wittig and Simone Pika in Scientific Reports. Published online May 23 2016 doi:10.1038/srep25887
Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]Max Planck Institute. “Great Apes Communicate Cooperatively.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 23 May 2016. <https://neurosciencenews.com/chimp-communication-turns-4277/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]Max Planck Institute. (2016, May 23). Great Apes Communicate Cooperatively. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved May 23, 2016 from https://neurosciencenews.com/chimp-communication-turns-4277/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]Max Planck Institute. “Great Apes Communicate Cooperatively.” https://neurosciencenews.com/chimp-communication-turns-4277/ (accessed May 23, 2016).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
Unpeeling the layers of language: Bonobos and chimpanzees engage in cooperative turn-taking sequences.
Human language is a fundamentally cooperative enterprise, embodying fast-paced and extended social interactions. It has been suggested that it evolved as part of a larger adaptation of humans’ species-unique forms of cooperation. Although our closest living relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees, show general cooperative abilities, their communicative interactions seem to lack the cooperative nature of human conversation. Here, we revisited this claim by conducting the first systematic comparison of communicative interactions in mother-infant dyads living in two different communities of bonobos (LuiKotale, DRC; Wamba, DRC) and chimpanzees (Taï South, Côte d’Ivoire; Kanyawara, Uganda) in the wild. Focusing on the communicative function of joint-travel-initiation, we applied parameters of conversation analysis to gestural exchanges between mothers and infants. Results showed that communicative exchanges in both species resemble cooperative turn-taking sequences in human conversation. While bonobos consistently addressed the recipient via gaze before signal initiation and used so-called overlapping responses, chimpanzees engaged in more extended negotiations, involving frequent response waiting and gestural sequences. Our results thus strengthen the hypothesis that interactional intelligence paved the way to the cooperative endeavour of human language and suggest that social matrices highly impact upon communication styles.
“Unpeeling the layers of language: Bonobos and chimpanzees engage in cooperative turn-taking sequences.” by Marlen Fröhlich, Paul Kuchenbuch, Gudrun Müller, Barbara Fruth, Takeshi Furuichi, Roman M. Wittig and Simone Pika in Scientific Reports. Published online May 23 2016 doi:10.1038/srep25887