Animal Cognition

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 113–125 | Cite as

Manipulating social cues in baboon gesture learning: what does it tell us about the evolution of communication?

  • Marie BourjadeEmail author
  • Florence Gaunet
  • Anaïs Maugard
  • Adrien Meguerditchian
Original Paper


Reading the attentional state of an audience is crucial for effective intentional communication. This study investigates how individual learning experience affects subsequent ability to tailor gestural communication to audience visual attention. Olive baboons were atypically trained to request food with gestures by a human standing in profile, while not having access to her face. They were tested immediately after training, and then 1 year later in conditions that varied the human’s cues to attention. In immediate testing, these baboons (profile group baboons) gestured towards untrained cues regardless of their relevance for visual communication. They were also less discriminant towards trained versus untrained cues than baboons trained by a human facing them (face group baboons, tested in Bourjade et al. Anim Behav 87:121–128; Bourjade et al., Anim Behav 87:121–128, 2014). In delayed testing, the number of gestures towards meaningful untrained cues increased and profile group baboons discriminated the orientation of the human body, a conspicuous proxy of visual attention. Our results provide support for the primary interplay between implicit learning and systematically reinforced associations made through explicit training in the scaffolding of intentional gesturing tuned to audience attention.


Attentional state Gestural communication Audience Explicit training Implicit learning Intentionality 



This research was supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR) [Grant number ANR-12-PDOC-0014]. We thank Gaëtan Lagier, Delphine Potdevin and Quentin Wohlfarth for coding all the video material, Morgane Allanic, Brigitte Rimbaud, Valérie Moulin, Yves Gobin and Romain Lacoste for technical support and Luke Glowacki for language editing. We are grateful to Jacques Vauclair, Pauline Fresnais, Stéphane Vautier and Joël Fagot for fruitful discussions over the course of the study.


This study was funded by the ANR (Grant number ANR-12-PDOC-0014).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Marie Bourjade declares that she has no conflict of interest; Florence Gaunet declares that she has no conflicts of interest; Anaïs Maugard declares that she has no conflict of interest; Adrien Meguerditchian declares that he has no conflict of interest. Adrien Meguerditchian received a grant from the ANR (ANR-12-PDOC-0014).

Ethical approval

All procedures complied with the current French law and the current European directive (reference 86/609/CEE) relative to the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (Station de Primatologie’s agreement number for conducting experiments on vertebrate animals: D13-087-7).

Supplementary material

10071_2018_1227_MOESM1_ESM.docx (85 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 85 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CLLEUniversité de Toulouse, CNRSToulouseFrance
  2. 2.Station de Primatologie (UPS 846), CNRSRoussetFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (UMR 7290)Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, Fédération 3CMarseilleFrance
  4. 4.UMR 5263 Cognition Langues Langage Ergonomie - Laboratoire Travail et Cognition (CLLE-LTC) Maison de la recherche C-616, Université Toulouse Jean JaurèsToulouse CedexFrance

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