• Chimpanzees modify intentional gestures to coordinate a search for hidden food

      Roberts, Anna I.; Vick, Sarah-Jane; Roberts, Sam G. B.; Menzel, Charles R.; University of Chester; University of Stirling; Georgia State University (Nature Publishing Group, 2014-01-16)
      Humans routinely communicate to coordinate their activities, persisting and elaborating signals to pursue goals that cannot be accomplished individually. Communicative persistence is associated with complex cognitive skills such as intentionality, because interactants modify their communication in response to another’s understanding of their meaning. Here we show that two language-trained chimpanzees effectively use intentional gestures to coordinate with an experimentally naive human to retrieve hidden food, providing some of the most compelling evidence to date for the role of communicative flexibility in successful coordination in nonhumans. Both chimpanzees (named Panzee and Sherman) increase the rate of non-indicative gestures when the experimenter approaches the location of the hidden food. Panzee also elaborates her gestures in relation to the experimenter’s pointing, which enables her to find food more effectively than Sherman. Communicative persistence facilitates effective communication during behavioural coordination and is likely to have been important in shaping language evolution.
    • Persistence in gestural communication predicts sociality in wild chimpanzees.

      Roberts, Anna I.; Roberts, Sam G. B. (2018-10-19)
      A key challenge for primates is coordinating behaviour with conspecifics in large, complex social groups. Gestures play a key role in this process and chimpanzees show considerable flexibility communicating through single gestures, sequences of gestures interspersed with periods of response waiting (persistence), and rapid sequences where gestures are made in quick succession, too rapid for the response waiting to have occurred. The previous studies examined behavioural reactions to single gestures and sequences, but whether this complexity is associated with more complex sociality at the level of the dyad partner and the group as a whole is not well understood. We used social network analysis to examine how the production of single gestures and sequences of gestures was related to the duration of time spent in proximity and individual differences in proximity in wild East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). Pairs of chimpanzees that spent a longer duration of time in proximity had higher rates of persistence sequences, but not a higher rate of single gestures or rapid sequences. The duration of time spent in proximity was also related to the rate of responding to gestures, and response to gesture by activity change. These results suggest that communicative persistence and the type of response to gestures may play an important role in regulating social interactions in primate societies.
    • The repertoire and intentionality of gestural communication in wild chimpanzees.

      Roberts, Anna I.; Vick, Sarah-Jane; Roberts, Sam G. B.; University of Chester; Budongo Conservation Field Station; University of Stirling (Springer, 2014-09-03)
      A growing body of evidence suggests that human language may have emerged primarily in the gestural rather than vocal domain, and that studying gestural communication in great apes is crucial to understanding language evolution. Although manual and bodily gestures are considered distinct at a neural level, there has been very limited consideration of potential differences at a behavioural level. In this study, we conducted naturalistic observations of adult wild East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in order to establish a repertoire of gestures, and examine intentionality of gesture production, use and comprehension, comparing across manual and bodily gestures. At the population level, 120 distinct gesture types were identified, consisting of 65 manual gestures and 55 bodily gestures. Both bodily and manual gestures were used intentionally and effectively to attain specific goals, by signallers who were sensitive to recipient attention. However, manual gestures differed from bodily gestures in terms of communicative persistence, indicating a qualitatively different form of behavioural flexibility in achieving goals. Both repertoire size and frequency of manual gesturing were more affiliative than bodily gestures, while bodily gestures were more antagonistic. These results indicate that manual gestures may have played a significant role in the emergence of increased flexibility in great ape communication and social bonding
    • Wild chimpanzees modify modality of gestures according to the strength of social bonds and personal network size

      Roberts, Anna I.; Roberts, Sam G. B.; University of Chester (Nature Publishing Group, 2016-09-21)
      Primates form strong and enduring social bonds with others and these bonds have important fitness consequences. However, how different types of communication are associated with different types of social bonds is poorly understood. Wild chimpanzees have a large repertoire of gestures, from visual gestures to tactile and auditory gestures. We used social network analysis to examine the association between proximity bonds (time spent in close proximity) and rates of gestural communication in pairs of chimpanzees when the intended recipient was within 10 m of the signaller. Pairs of chimpanzees with strong proximity bonds had higher rates of visual gestures, but lower rates of auditory long-range and tactile gestures. However, individual chimpanzees that had a larger number of proximity bonds had higher rates of auditory and tactile gestures and lower rates of visual gestures. These results suggest that visual gestures may be an efficient way to communicate with a small number of regular interaction partners, but that tactile and auditory gestures may be more effective at communicating with larger numbers of weaker bonds. Increasing flexibility of communication may have played an important role in managing differentiated social relationships in groups of increasing size and complexity in both primate and human evolution.