CZAAWE Resource Article

Referential Communication by Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Journal of Comparative Psychology
Two experiments were conducted to assess the referential function of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) gestures to obtain food. The chimpanzees received 1 trial per condition. In Experiment 1 (N 101), in full view of the chimpanzee, a banana was placed on top of 1 of 2 inverted buckets or was hidden underneath 1 of the buckets. In Experiment 2 (N 35), 4 conditions were presented in constant order: (a) no food, no observer; (b) no food, observer present; (c) food present, no observer; and (d) food present, observer present. Gestures and visual orienting were used socially and referentially. The capacity for nonverbal reference may predate the Hominidae–Pongidae split, and the development of nonverbal reference may be independent of human species-specific adaptations for speech.