Captive orangutans intentionally modify or repeat hand or other signals selectively based on the success or failure of their first attempt, according to a August 2nd study in Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press.
“We were surprised that the orangutans' responses so clearly signaled their assessment of the audience's comprehension,” commented Richard Byrne of The University of St. Andrews. “Looking at the tapes of the animal’s responses, you can easily work out whether the orangutan thinks it has been fully, partially, or not understood--without seeing what went before.”
“This means that, in effect, they are passing information back to the audience about how well they are doing in understanding them--hence our 'charades' analogy,” he continued. “In playing the game, you want primarily to convey your meaning non-verbally--as does the orangutan--but secondarily to help the team get your meaning by giving them hints as to how well they are doing.”
To find out whether orangutans intentionally communicate with people through gestures—a skill earlier attributed to chimpanzees—Erica Cartmill and Richard Byrne presented six captive orangutans with situations in which one tempting and one not-so-tempting food item had to be reached with human help.
But to test the orangutans’ strategy, the researchers provided a catch. Rather than play along all the time, the experimenter sometimes purposefully misunderstood the orangutan’s requests. In some cases, they provided only half of the delicious treat; in others, they handed over the yuckier alternative instead.
When the person with whom they were trying to communicate did not meet the orangutans’ aims, the apes persisted in further tries, the researchers reported. When partially understood, the animals narrowed down their range of signals by focusing on gestures already used and repeating them frequently. In contrast, when completely misunderstood, orangutans elaborated their range of gestures and avoided repetition of "failed" signals.
“The response showed that the orangutan had intended a particular result, anticipated getting it, and kept trying until it got the result,” Cartmill said. “The orangutans made a clear distinction between total misunderstanding, when they tended to give up on the signals they'd used already and use new, but equivalent, ones to get the idea across, and partial misunderstanding, when they tended to repeat the signals that had already partially worked, keeping at it with vigor. The result is that understanding can be achieved more quickly.”
The orangutans’ charades-like strategy is one way to construct a shared lexicon from learned or ritualized signals, the researchers concluded. Further investigation of communication among apes may therefore provide insight into the pre-linguistic devices that helped construct the very earliest forms of language.
Erin Doonan | EurekAlert!
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences