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J Comp Psychol. 1994 Dec;108(4):307-17.

Production and comprehension of referential pointing by orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus).

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Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322.


We report 3 studies of the referential pointing of 2 orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Chantek was raised in an enculturated environment; Puti, raised in a nursery, had a more typical captive life. In Experiment 1, flexibility of pointing behavior was investigated by requiring subjects to point in novel circumstances (for an out-of-sight tool, not food). In Experiment 2, we investigated the orangutans' comprehension of the significance of a human point in helping them to locate food. In Experiment 3, we investigated whether these pointing subjects comprehended that a human recipient must be looking for the point to achieve its attention-directing goal. In all experiments the enculturated orangutan showed better understanding of pointing than the captive orangutan. This finding is consistent with recent studies that have found differences in the cognitive and social-cognitive abilities of apes that have had different types of experience with humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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