Acquisition of joint attention by olive baboons gesturing toward humans
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Joint attention is a core ability of human social cognition which broadly refers to the coordination of attention with both the presence and activity of social partners. In both human and non-human primates, joint attention can be assessed from behaviour; gestures and gaze alternation between the partner and a distal object are standard behavioural manifestations of joint attention. Here we examined the acquisition of joint attention in olive baboons as a function of their individual experience of a human partner’s attentional states during training regimes. Eleven olive baboons (Papio anubis) were observed during their training to perform food-requesting gestures, which occurred either by (1) a human facing them (face condition), or (2) by a human positioned in profile who never turned to them (profile condition). We found neither gestures nor gaze alternation were present at the start of the training but rather developed over the training period. Only baboons in the face condition showed an increase in the number of gaze alternations, and their gaze pattern progressively shifted to a coordinated sequence in which gazes and gestures were coordinated in time. In contrast, baboons trained by a human in profile showed significantly less coordination of gazes with gestures but still learned to request food with their gestures. These results suggest that the partner’s social attention plays an important role in the acquisition of visual joint attention and, to a lesser extent, in gesture learning in baboons. Interspecific interactions appear to offer rich opportunities to manipulate and thus identify the social contexts in which socio-communicative skills develop.
KeywordsGesture Gaze alternation Training Attentional state Olive baboons
We thank Morgane Allanic and Charlotte Canteloup for double coding of the video material and the staff members of the Station de Primatologie for their support during the experiments. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers of Animal Cognition as well as Kim Bard and Luke Glowacki for their helpful comments on the earlier versions of this manuscript.
This study was partly supported by a Grant from the MSHS-T in 2016 and by two ANR Grants (ANR-08-BLAN-0011_01; ANR-12-PDOC-0014) to conduct the experiments between August 2011 and April 2013.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
Augustine Lamaury declares that she has no conflict of interest; Hélène Cochet declares that she has no conflicts of interest; Marie Bourjade declares that she received a research Grant from the MSHS-T in 2016 and partly benefited from two ANR Grants (ANR-08-BLAN-0011_01; ANR-12-PDOC-0014) to conduct the experiments between August 2011 and April 2013.
All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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