Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 239–250 | Cite as

Training experience in gestures affects the display of social gaze in baboons’ communication with a human

  • Marie BourjadeEmail author
  • Charlotte Canteloup
  • Adrien Meguerditchian
  • Jacques Vauclair
  • Florence Gaunet
Original Paper


Gaze behaviour, notably the alternation of gaze between distal objects and social partners that accompanies primates’ gestural communication is considered a standard indicator of intentionality. However, the developmental precursors of gaze behaviour in primates’ communication are not well understood. Here, we capitalized on the training in gestures dispensed to olive baboons (Papio anubis) as a way of manipulating individual communicative experience with humans. We aimed to delineate the effects of such a training experience on gaze behaviour displayed by the monkeys in relation with gestural requests. Using a food-requesting paradigm, we compared subjects trained in requesting gestures (i.e. trained subjects) to naïve subjects (i.e. control subjects) for their occurrences of (1) gaze behaviour, (2) requesting gestures and (3) temporal combination of gaze alternation with gestures. We found that training did not affect the frequencies of looking at the human’s face, looking at food or alternating gaze. Hence, social gaze behaviour occurs independently from the amount of communicative experience with humans. However, trained baboons—gesturing more than control subjects—exhibited most gaze alternation combined with gestures, whereas control baboons did not. By reinforcing the display of gaze alternation along with gestures, we suggest that training may have served to enhance the communicative function of hand gestures. Finally, this study brings the first quantitative report of monkeys producing requesting gestures without explicit training by humans (controls). These results may open a window on the developmental mechanisms (i.e. incidental learning vs. training) underpinning gestural intentional communication in primates.


Gaze alternation Requesting gestures Referential communication Joint attention Intentionality Nonhuman primates 



This research was supported by French National Research Agency (ANR) Grants; reference ANR-12-PDOC-0014, and ANR-08-BLAN-0011 01. We thank Benoît Rosay for coding all the video material, Clémence Poirotte, Blaise Franzon and Morgane Allanic for secondary blind coding, Sarah Pope for language advice, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 20 kb)
10071_2014_793_MOESM3_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie Bourjade
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Charlotte Canteloup
    • 2
  • Adrien Meguerditchian
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jacques Vauclair
    • 3
  • Florence Gaunet
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (UMR 7290), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)Aix-Marseille UniversitéMarseille Cedex 3France
  2. 2.Station de Primatologie (UPS 846)Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueRoussetFrance
  3. 3.Research Centre in the Psychology of Cognition, Language and EmotionAix-Marseille UniversitéAix-en-ProvenceFrance

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