Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 451–461 | Cite as

Do Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana) tailor their gestural and visual signals to fit the attentional states of a human partner?

  • Charlotte CanteloupEmail author
  • Dalila Bovet
  • Hélène Meunier
Original Paper


We tested here whether Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana), trained to produce a pointing gesture, modify their behaviour in response to different human’s attentional states. More specifically, we investigated the macaque’s ability to communicate intentionally about the location of an unreachable hidden food reward in several contexts which differ by the human partner’s attentional state. The experimenter displayed seven attentional states differing on the basis of body, head and gaze orientation. Our study validates several criteria of an intentional communication. We showed that macaques produce more pointing gestures when an audience, i.e. the human partner, is present than absent. We also revealed an adjustment of gaze alternation between the face of the experimenter and the hidden food reward according to several experimental conditions. However, in our study, macaques did not produce auditory attention-getting behaviours when the human partner was inattentive. Finally, only rough cues, i.e. presence, body and face orientation of the observer, seem to be taken into account by macaques. However, our results also supposed the importance of joint attention for macaques since they display more gaze alternation when the head and/or eyes of the human partner are mobile.


Intentional communication Social cognition Attention Cues Monkeys 



This study was funded by the Primatology Centre of Strasbourg University. The authors are sincerely grateful to Nicolas Herrenschmidt and his whole team for allowing them to conduct this study at the Primatology Centre of Strasbourg University in France. The authors are particularly thankful to the assistant Myriam Gerardin for helping in data collection during the experiments and to Nicolas Poulin from CeStatS of Strasbourg University, Marie Bourjade from the Aix-Marseille University and Jonas Fizet from the Primatology Centre of Strasbourg University for statistical assistance. Sarah Lux is greatly thanked for her valuable proofreading and correction of the manuscript in English. Authors also thank, on one hand, Nadège Krebs from Noldus for her advices concerning the use of the software The Observer and, on the other hand, the “Conservation Sauvage Internationale” association for providing internship agreement to CC. Finally, the two anonymous reviewers are thanked for their valuable and helpful corrections and commentaries. All the experiments adhered to the current French laws concerning laboratory animal care and were approved by the French ethical committee CREMEAS (Number of agreement for conducting experiments on primates: AL/46/53/02/13).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlotte Canteloup
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dalila Bovet
    • 3
  • Hélène Meunier
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Primatology Centre of Strasbourg UniversityNiederhausbergenFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives et Adaptatives, UMR 7364Strasbourg UniversityStrasbourgFrance
  3. 3.Laboratory of Ethology, Cognition, DevelopmentUniversity Paris Ouest Nanterre La DéfenseNanterre CedexFrance

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