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`Chimps use passionate gestures to communicate`

Last Updated: Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 16:52

Washington: Chimpanzees use a mixture of passionate gestures, vocalizations and even sign language to get their points across with each other and with humans, a new study has found.

Like a passionate Italian using a combination of hand movements and sounds, the chimpanzees often succeed in conveying what`s on their minds, which-in the case of chimps-is often food, playtime and an annoyance over being ignored.

The gestures frequently happen in sequences, according to the study.

Co-author Mary Lee Abshire Jensvold explained how one of the studied chimps, a male named Dar, playfully forced another male, Loulis, to pay attention.

"Dar open palm slapped, a tactile gesture, on Loulis. Loulis didn`t respond. Dar then used a different gesture, the foot stomp, an auditory gesture, which makes noise. Loulis responded to that gesture. This shows a persistence in communication," she said.
Jensvold, associate director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, and her colleagues Maureen McCarthy and Deborah Fouts studied these two chimps along with three females-----Washoe, Moja and Tatu-at the institute.

The researchers say that four of "the chimpanzees were raised in an environment like that of a deaf human child and acquired signs of ASL (American Sign Language) in this environment."

When he was brought into the group, the fifth chimp, Loulis, acquired many of the language signs by copying what the other primates were doing.

When the researchers studied how the chimps communicated with each other, they noticed that sign language was worked into the mix of chimp vocalizations and gestures.

The chimpanzees also used their own unique mix of gestures not learned or somehow derived from humans.

These included moves akin to high fives, fist bumps, feet claps, head nodding or moving side-to-side, arm flails, hugs, proud swaggers and pursed lip kissing.

In terms of chimp sounds to accompany these moves, Jensvold explained that "the vocalizations were primarily food barks, laughter, and other vocalizations that augment the context."

The findings show that chimps adjust their communications based on how much the intended receiver is paying attention.

If that individual is looking at the chimp, the chimp likely will vocalize and gesture.

If the individual isn`t looking, he or she probably soon will, due to moves like gentle poking and annoyed foot stomp s designed to grab attention.

The study is published in the journal Animal Cognition.


First Published: Sunday, April 21, 2013 - 11:26
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