Toddlers between one and two years old use a lot of gestures that are also used by great apes. This is evident from a new study by the Scottish St. Andrews University in collaboration with colleagues from the universities of Neuchatel, Göttingen and Hamburg. Their findings were published in the journal Animal Cognition.
The scientists studied the gestures of young children and did the same study in chimpanzees. They observed the primates in their natural habitat: Budongo gold in Uganda. The children were observed in daycare centres and their home environment.
“Wild chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans all use gestures to communicate their requests, but so far there was still one human monkey in the picture – we ourselves,” says lead author Catherine Hobaiter, of the department of psychology and neuroscience. St. Andrews. “We used exactly the same method to study young chimpanzees and children. That makes sense – children are just little monkeys. ”
The research showed that toddlers use up to 52 different gestures to communicate, such as shaking their heads, stomping, poking, slapping themselves and throwing objects. 50 of these movements are shared with great apes.
“We thought we might see some of these gestures again – like sticking out the palm to ask for something or putting your hand in the air, but we were surprised to see how many of these” man-monkey gestures “were used by the children.” according to Hobaiter.
The researchers found that the toddlers and young monkeys use these gestures in a similar way: they combine them to ask for different things.
In addition, there were also some differences: young children point much more often than young apes and wave to say hello or goodbye is apparently something that only man does.
Humanity has evolved enormously in the field of communication, but we still use gestures that we have inherited from our distant ancestors, the study concludes.
Human ape’s dictionary
The research follows another recent study that found that apes use more than 80 different gestures. Based on this, a “pedigree apes” was compiled.