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Emergence of Gestures in Bonovos. March 4.

Author:movellan @ March 2nd, 2009 Comments Off on Emergence of Gestures in Bonovos. March 4.

DATE: Wed, March 4
TIME: 4:30-6
SPEAKER: Chris Johnson, Dept of Cognitive Science, UCSD

Negotiating Carries: Gesture Development in Mother-Infant Bonobos
C Johnson, S-L Zastrow and M. Halina


The emergence of gesture in captive bonobos (Pan paniscus) was investigated in longitudinal case studies of three mother-infant dyads at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. Videotape, shot on site over the period in which the infants were 10-18 months of age, was reviewed and about 700 examples of attempted or completed carries were collected. Criteria for determining when an interaction was “carryesque”, even when it did not end in a carry, involved identifying a normative, dynamic configuration of co-action and co-attention. The relative moves in these trajectories were further analyzed as being compatible or incompatible with a carry, and as involving configuring one’s own body, manipulating the body of another, or gesturing. Defining gesture as any other-directed, non-forceful, non-carry-enacting move in context, we were able to identify two major classes of gestures during carries in these dyads: attention-getting and iconic. The performance of these gestures showed a marked sensitivity to the attentional state of the other animal. The social ecology of each dyad – situating them in the larger political setting of their respective social groups, and including each dyad’s propensities for compatibility, manipulation, etc. – is argued as exerting selective pressure for certain types of mother-infant negotiations. Of particular interest was one dyad in which a period of both high incompatibility by the mother, and high levels of compatible initiation and manipulation by the infant, resulted in greatly extended negotiations in which carry-specific gestures emerged. Additional preliminary micro-analysis of these gesture-mediated interactions and their predecessors suggests that this development may have involved the salient “freezing” of a normally-continuous, role-specific enactment of the carry, and ultimately the generation of a dissociable gesture routine.

Christine M. Johnson, Ph.D.
Department of Cognitive Science
U.C. San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093-0515
Phn: 858-534-9854
Fax: 858-534-1128