Use of gesture sequences in captive chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) play

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Primate Behavior and Ecology

Publication Date



This study examined the use of sensory modalities relative to a partner’s behavior in gesture sequences during captive chimpanzee play at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute. We hypothesized that chimpanzees would use visual gestures toward attentive recipients and auditory/tactile gestures toward inattentive recipients. We also hypothesized that gesture sequences would be more prevalent toward unresponsive rather than responsive recipients. The chimpanzees used significantly more auditory/tactile rather than visual gestures first in sequences with both attentive and inattentive recipients. They rarely used visual gestures toward inattentive recipients. Auditory/tactile gestures were effective with and used with both attentive and inattentive recipients. Recipients responded significantly more to single gestures than to first gestures in sequences. Sequences often indicated that recipients did not respond to initial gestures, whereas effective single gestures made more gestures unnecessary. The chimpanzees thus gestured appropriately relative to a recipient’s behavior and modified their interactions according to contextual social cues.


This article was originally published in Animal Cognition. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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​Animal Cognition


© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012