Animal Cognition

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 471–481 | Cite as

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

  • Maureen S. McCarthy
  • Mary Lee Abshire JensvoldEmail author
  • Deborah H. Fouts
Original Paper


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.


Gestural communication Attentional state Chimpanzee Gesture sequence 



We thank Jessie Haight, Nicholas Helble, Holly Moskowitz, Erika Nelson, Lorraine Smith, and Sophia Smith for assistance with data collection and entry. For assistance with video archive use, we thank Jason Wallin. We also thank Stephen Lea, Catherine Hobaiter, and one anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on an earlier draft of our manuscript. This research was generously supported by the Central Washington University Office of Graduate Studies and Research.

Supplementary material

10071_2012_587_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (254 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 255 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maureen S. McCarthy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mary Lee Abshire Jensvold
    • 2
    Email author
  • Deborah H. Fouts
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Chimpanzee and Human Communication InstituteCentral Washington UniversityEllensburgUSA

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