Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Environment may impact apes' ability to understand declarative communication, study suggests

Date:
March 19, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Bonobos and chimpanzees that had been reared in socio-linguistically rich environments (i.e., lots of opportunities for complex communicative interactions with humans) performed significantly better in the pointing, vocalizing, and pointing-and-vocalizing conditions of an object-choice task than did chimpanzees that had been reared in standard laboratory settings. These results indicate that apes may have the potential for understanding declarative communication and this potential may be achieved in specific environments.

When we notice somebody pointing at something, we automatically look in the direction of the gesture. In humans, the ability to understand this type of gesturing (known as declarative communication) may seem to be an automatic response, but it is actually a sign of sophisticated communication behavior. Numerous studies have tried to determine if great apes (for example, chimpanzees and bonobos) are able to understand declarative communication, but results have been mixed.

Related Articles


Psychological scientists Heidi Lyn and William Hopkins from Agnes Scott College and Jamie Russell from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center examined if exposure to different human communicative environments would affect understanding of declarative signals in chimpanzees and bonobos.

Three groups of apes were tested in this study. One group consisted of chimpanzees that had been raised in standard laboratory housing; although they had regular contact with humans, these interactions were limited to basic animal-care contexts such as feeding. The other two groups of apes consisted of chimpanzees and bonobos that had been raised in socio-linguistically rich environments, where they were routinely exposed to complex communicative interactions with humans. In the current experiment, the apes participated in an object-choice task -- they had to choose between two containers, one of which contained a food reward. The placement of the food in one of the containers was hidden from the apes, and a researcher indicated the correct container by pointing, vocalizing, or both.

The results, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, indicate interesting differences between chimps and bonobos raised in socio-linguistically rich environments and chimps raised in standard laboratory housing. The bonobos and chimps that had been reared in the highly communicative environments performed significantly better than chimps that had been reared in standard laboratory settings in the pointing, vocalizing, and pointing-and-vocalizing conditions. Further analysis revealed that the best results occurred when the researcher simultaneously pointed and vocalized towards the correct container. This finding supports earlier studies that suggest visual cues enhance performance on auditory tasks.

These results indicate that apes may have the potential for understanding declarative communication and this potential may be achieved in specific environments. The authors conclude, "Because the ability to acquire declarative comprehension is common to both apes and humans, researchers must look elsewhere for a candidate biological change that allowed for the evolution of human language and cognition."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Environment may impact apes' ability to understand declarative communication, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315162058.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, March 19). Environment may impact apes' ability to understand declarative communication, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315162058.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Environment may impact apes' ability to understand declarative communication, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315162058.htm (accessed April 18, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 17, 2015) A truck carrying honey bees overturns near Lynnwood, Washington, spreading boxes of live bees across the highway. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Dog flu is spreading in several Midwestern states. Dog daycare centers and veterinary offices are taking precautions. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers from the E/V Nautilus had quite a surprise Tuesday, when a curious sperm whale swam around their remotely operated vehicle in the Gulf of Mexico. Cameras captured the encounter. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins