Our group has been studying great ape communication for over 20-years and across chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orang-utans; but it’s the first time that we’re getting human great apes in on the picture! (As you might be able to tell we’re •really• excited!)

Using our long-term studies we have been able to show that many of the gesture types that great apes use to communicate with other apes are shared across the species – in chimpanzees and bonobos it’s almost 100% – but it’s been tough to work out how humans fit into the picture. Humans use gestures – as well as language, sounds, facial expressions, body postures, and more – to communicate. But if we wanted to communicate the sort of requests that great apes use their gestures for: come here! I want that! come with me! or even go away! we use language. So we’re trying a little cross-species communication… If many great ape gestures, and perhaps the gesture meanings, are shared across all the other apes that suggests that they may have a very old evolutionary origin. So it’s possible that while modern humans use language to communicate the same requests we might still be able to recognise the gestures and what they mean in other apes.

If you’re keen to find out more and possibly help us out then check out our experiment page! 

16 thoughts on “And we’re online…! How great an ape are you?

  1. I have just completed this and it was fun, thanks. There was two videos that didn’t play, however. And one video skipped after watching but wouldn’t reload when I wanted to answer. I’m sure just glitches in a new system.

    1. Really glad you enjoyed it thanks! Sorry for the glitches, we had a lot more traffic than we expected come through last night; fantastic for data collection but I think it caused a few hiccups. Hopefully smoother running now!

  2. Hi, completed the test and got 6/20! I have two observations to make:
    1) I think the images are just not clear enough. The branches and leaves obscure the action too much when they are not part of the gesture. Though technically possible, I accept that the cost of taking this background out would be prohibitively expensive
    2) I also feel that that the slow motion needs to be much slower. We are going back millions of years, so maybe our brains need a bit longer to recognise the gestures.
    Interesting experiment, though. I believe the open-handed gesture is universal among human cultures as asking/begging for something.

    1. Hi! Thanks for taking part and the feedback. It’s definitely tough to spot the gestures at first – but we wanted to use the wild videos from the forest as this is the real environment the apes are communicating in. It might be hard for them sometimes too and it helps us to find out if some gestures are harder to spot!

    1. Hi! Sorry you found the videos hard. We have to use real video from wild apes gesturing in their natural habitats. It’s a tough environment to spot gestures in, but that also helps us find out if some types of gestures are easier to spot than others.

  3. Thank you, research team, it was a very interesting test! I’ve enjoyed it much! And I’ve sent it to others as well, so that they can participate in it also.
    Would be very interested in further information about your survey and its outcome/results! (I’m a human evolution professional, with background in psychology.)
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you for taking part and for sharing too! We’re really curious to see how everyone does. We’ll post news here as soon as we can, and please feel free to get in touch with either of us to follow up too.

  4. That was really fun and interesting ~~ I will definitely be following this project, patiently, as you move forward. Thanks for opening this up to everyone…I learned of in on PRI this morning.

    1. Thanks for taking part! We’re really excited to see everyone’s data come in. We’ll be posting updates here as soon as we can.

  5. Really enjoyed this, but was very surprised at how few I got right (10/20 the first time; only 13/20 the second time). I confess that I didn’t read the directions closely enough the first time (my fault; I apologize) and didn’t notice that there were descriptions missing below the videos that should have been there. The second time, I read more closely and they also popped up that time…but I still only got 13/20. Pretty difficult, even with the descriptions of what they were doing at the time. Thanks for allowing us (the public) to join your research!

    1. Hi! Thank you for taking part (twice!). 10 is not a bad score and 13 is pretty great! Much higher than chance! There are a couple of conditions in the test and you’re randomly allocated to one of them. Some have more info than others (like the extra context sentences). We’ll be able to explain a lot more once the study is closed 🙂 Thanks again!

  6. That was really fascinating to do. I only got 9 out of 20. Some of the gestures are so subtle and so quick, it was definitely hard to tell! A couple of times I thought, going by the clips, that one chimp was telling the other to “back off” or “move away from me” but that option wasn’t one of the four available for that clip, so I really wasn’t sure which option to select and had to go with just anything really. None of the options seemed to fit a couple of the clips at all! Anyway, I enjoyed doing that. I adore all primates but especially the great apes and especially chimps and bonobos! Will be interested to see the overall results. 🙂

  7. I just finished the test and scored 13/20 Some of the gestures were just too difficult to read! Loved taking part and looking forward to seeing the end results! 😃

  8. I really enjoyed doing it, I accidentally put the wrong answer for one pretty obvious one due to a finger twitch, I couldn’t correct it so thought the next best thing was to put that I was 0% confident in the answer. I guess it’ll just be a tiny bit of noise in the stats.

    1. I got 14, swear it should have been 15 cos the one I got wrong was really obvious. I did have the explanatory sentences though, although it was the diagram I found really helped.

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