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Do humans and apes share ‘universal body language’?

| | March 7, 2018

Now, new research published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology has shown that chimps and bonobos may be able to understand each other’s body gestures. This suggests that great apes, including humans, might share a universal system of communication that could have first evolved in a common ancestor, millions of years ago.

[Researchers] examined videos of wild bonobos in Uganda to understand more about the meanings behind their gestures and compare them to those made by chimps.

[A] bonobo might present an arm to a second bonobo—who responds by climbing on the first’s back, causing the first bonobo to stop gesturing. The researchers would infer from this exchange that the first bonobo was “satisfied” with the outcome and therefore that the meaning of the gesture is “climb on me.”

When they compared the meanings of both the chimp and bonobo gestures, they found there was a substantial overlap.

“And we’ve also just finished an online experiment seeing if humans understand any of the great ape gestures, by showing people videos of chimp and bonobo gestures and asking what they think the gestures mean. We haven’t yet finished analysis, but we’re hoping to be able to say which of the great ape gestures humans still seem to understand,” [said researcher Kirsty Graham].

Read full, original post: Apes and humans might share ancient universal body language that lets them understand each other

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