Sensitivity to the communicative partner's attentional state : a developmental study on mother-infant dyads in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)
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Gestural communication permeates all domains of chimpanzees' social life and is intentional in use. However, we still have only limited information on how young apes develop the sociocognitive skills needed for intentional communication. In this cross-sectional study, we document the development of behavioral adjustment to the recipient's visual attention-considered a hallmark of intentional communication-in wild immature chimpanzees' gestural communication. We studied 11 immature chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii): three infants, four juveniles, and four adolescents gesturing towards their mother. We quantified silent-visual, audible, and contact gestures indexed to maternal visual attention and inattention. We investigated unimodal adjustment, defined by the capacity of young chimpanzees to deploy fewer silent-visual signals when their mothers did not show full visual attention towards them as compared with when they did. We then examined cross-modal adjustment, defined as the capacity of chimpanzees to deploy more audible-or-contact gestures than silent-visual gestures in the condition where their mothers did not show full visual attention as compared to when they did. Our results show a gradual decline in the use of silent-visual gestures when the mother is not visually attentive with increasing age. The absence of silent-visual gesture production toward a visually inattentive recipient (complete unimodal adjustment) was not fully in place until adolescence. Immature chimpanzees used more audible-or-contact gestures than silent-visual ones when their mothers did not show visual attention and vice-versa when they did. This cross-modal adjustment was expressed in juveniles and adolescents but not in infants. Overall, this study shows that infant chimpanzees were limited in their sensitivity to maternal attention when gesturing, whereas adolescent chimpanzees adjusted their communication appropriately. Juveniles present an intermediate pattern with cross-modal adjustment preceding unimodal adjustment and with variability in the age of onset.
Dafreville , M , Hobaiter , C , Guidetti , M , Sillam-Dussès , D & Bourjade , M 2021 , ' Sensitivity to the communicative partner's attentional state : a developmental study on mother-infant dyads in wild chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii ) ' , American Journal of Primatology , vol. Early View , e23339 . https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.23339
American Journal of Primatology
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DescriptionFieldwork of CH was supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation (http://wennergren.org) and the Russell Trust.
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