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Child Dev. 2014 Mar-Apr;85(2):444-55. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12141. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

Differences in the nonverbal requests of great apes and human infants.

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Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics.


This study investigated how great apes and human infants use imperative pointing to request objects. In a series of three experiments (infants, N = 44; apes, N = 12), subjects were given the opportunity to either point to a desired object from a distance or else to approach closer and request it proximally. The apes always approached close to the object, signaling their request through instrumental actions. In contrast, the infants quite often stayed at a distance, directing the experimenters' attention to the desired object through index-finger pointing, even when the object was in the open and they could obtain it by themselves. Findings distinguish 12-month-olds' imperative pointing from ontogenetic and phylogenetic earlier forms of ritualized reaching.

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