When apes point the finger
Three great ape species fail to use a conspecific’s imperative pointing gesture
Sebastian Tempelmann | Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Juliane Kaminski | Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Katja Liebal | Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
In contrast to apes’ seemingly sophisticated skill at producing pointing gestures referentially, the comprehension of other individual’s pointing gestures as a source of indexical information seems to be less pronounced.One reason for apes’ difficulty at comprehending pointing gestures might be that in former studies they were mainly confronted with human declarative pointing gestures, whereas apes have largely been shown to point imperatively and towards humans. In the present study bonobos, chimpanzees and orangutans were confronted with a conspecific’s imperative pointing gesture in a competitive context, therefore mirroring former studies that have investigated apes’ skills at producing these gestures.However, apes in the present study did not use their conspecific’s pointing gestures. Apes have been shown to use indexical information when provided noncommunicatively and to interpret other individuals’ actions in terms of motives. Thus, it is discussed whether apes treat a pointing gesture as intentional act of indexical reference.
Keywords: evolution of communication, great apes, indexical referen, pointing, referential communication, triadic communication, indexical reference
Published online: 06 May 2013
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