Chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes) coordinate by communicating in a collaborative problem-solving task.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Successful collaboration often relies on individuals' capacity to communicate with each other. Despite extensive research on chimpanzee communication, there is little evidence that chimpanzees are capable, without extensive human training, of regulating collaborative activities via communication. This study investigated whether pairs of chimpanzees were capable of communicating to ensure coordination during collaborative problem-solving. The chimpanzee pairs needed two tools to extract fruits from an apparatus. The communicator in each pair could see the location of the tools (hidden in one of two boxes), whereas only the recipient could open the boxes. The subjects were first successfully tested for their capacity to understand the pointing gestures of a human who indicated the location of the tools. In a subsequent conspecifics test, the communicator increasingly communicated the tools' location, by approaching the baited box and giving the key needed to open it to the recipients. The recipient used these signals and obtained the tools, transferring one of the tools to the communicator so that the pair could collaborate in obtaining the fruits. The study suggests that chimpanzees have the necessary socio-cognitive skills to naturally develop a simple communicative strategy to ensure coordination in a collaborative task.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Melis, AP; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • April 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 286 / 1901

Start / End Page

  • 20190408 -

PubMed ID

  • 30991932

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6501936

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1471-2954

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0962-8452

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1098/rspb.2019.0408


  • eng