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Multicomponent and multisensory communicative acts in orang-utans may serve different functions


Fröhlich, Marlen; Bartolotta, Natasha; Fryns, Caroline; Wagner, Colin; Momon, Laurene; Jaffrezic, Marvin; Mitra Setia, Tatang; van Noordwijk, Maria A; van Schaik, Carel P (2021). Multicomponent and multisensory communicative acts in orang-utans may serve different functions. Communications Biology, 4(1):917.

Abstract

From early infancy, human face-to-face communication is multimodal, comprising a plethora of interlinked communicative and sensory modalities. Although there is also growing evidence for this in nonhuman primates, previous research rarely disentangled production from perception of signals. Consequently, the functions of integrating articulators (i.e. production organs involved in multicomponent acts) and sensory channels (i.e. modalities involved in multisensory acts) remain poorly understood. Here, we studied close-range social interactions within and beyond mother-infant pairs of Bornean and Sumatran orang-utans living in wild and captive settings, to examine use of and responses to multicomponent and multisensory communication. From the perspective of production, results showed that multicomponent acts were used more than the respective unicomponent acts when the presumed goal did not match the dominant outcome for a specific communicative act, and were more common among non-mother-infant dyads and Sumatran orang-utans. From the perception perspective, we found that multisensory acts were more effective than the respective unisensory acts, and were used more in wild compared to captive populations. We argue that multisensory acts primarily facilitate effectiveness, whereas multicomponent acts become relevant when interaction outcomes are less predictable. These different functions underscore the importance of distinguishing between production and perception in studies of communication.

Abstract

From early infancy, human face-to-face communication is multimodal, comprising a plethora of interlinked communicative and sensory modalities. Although there is also growing evidence for this in nonhuman primates, previous research rarely disentangled production from perception of signals. Consequently, the functions of integrating articulators (i.e. production organs involved in multicomponent acts) and sensory channels (i.e. modalities involved in multisensory acts) remain poorly understood. Here, we studied close-range social interactions within and beyond mother-infant pairs of Bornean and Sumatran orang-utans living in wild and captive settings, to examine use of and responses to multicomponent and multisensory communication. From the perspective of production, results showed that multicomponent acts were used more than the respective unicomponent acts when the presumed goal did not match the dominant outcome for a specific communicative act, and were more common among non-mother-infant dyads and Sumatran orang-utans. From the perception perspective, we found that multisensory acts were more effective than the respective unisensory acts, and were used more in wild compared to captive populations. We argue that multisensory acts primarily facilitate effectiveness, whereas multicomponent acts become relevant when interaction outcomes are less predictable. These different functions underscore the importance of distinguishing between production and perception in studies of communication.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Evolutionary Anthropology
Special Collections > Centers of Competence > Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Evolution
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Medicine (miscellaneous)
Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Language:English
Date:1 December 2021
Deposited On:29 Jul 2021 07:41
Last Modified:25 Jun 2024 01:41
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2399-3642
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02429-y
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID51NF40_180888
  • : Project TitleNCCR Evolving Language (phase I)
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)