Scientific ASIA

Study reveals that Apes start and end social interactions just like Humans

It is highly impolite to walk out of a social situation without saying goodbye. It is kind of a silent rule. Even the apes would agree. Scientists have discovered that apes such as bonobos and chimpanzees have a similar system, using gestures and physical contact to initiate and conclude play or grooming. Durham University researchers said that this includes butting heads, holding hands, gazing at and touching each other.

These apes are a lot similar (almost 99%) to the human on a genetic level. Now they share out manners too. This is the first documentation of such behavior outside the human species. According to the study published in iScience, “Our findings show that two species of great apes habitually go through the same process and stages as humans when establishing, executing and terminating joint actions” That is, hi and bye.

Raphaela Heesen, a social cognition researcher at Durham University, and co-author of the study said, “Behavior doesn’t fossilize. You can’t dig up bones to look at how behavior has evolved. But you can study our closest living relatives: great apes like chimpanzees and bonobos.”

The team wrote in the paper that, “Joint commitment as a process refers to the exchange of signals necessary for would-be co-participants to arrive at the mutual belief that they are committed to a course of action where each has his or her part to play.” The Bonobos that are observed for this study, shared entry signals and mutual gaze before playing most (90%) of the time, while it was only 69% for chimps. Whereas, exiting signals were also more common (92%) in bonobos than in chimps (86%).  The team analyzed 1,242 interactions within groups of bonobos and chimpanzees in zoos

The other parameters that the study include the closeness of relationships, and power dynamics between those who are interacting. Interesting, for bonobos, the entry and exit phases were either very brief or non-existing between those who are socially close to each other. This type of behavior is quite identical to humans.

Heesen explained, “When you’re interacting with a good friend, you’re less likely to put in a lot of effort in communicating politely.”

While the strength of the social bond and friendship seemed to not affect the entries and exits among chimpanzees. Mostly because the authoritarian power hierarchies are most strictly followed in chimpanzees, unlike bonobos, who are most bound to social structures.

The author believes that “This ability [to share intentions] has been suggested to be at the heart of human nature. Whether this type of communication is present in other species will also be interesting to study in the future.” These findings will help in better understating the origin and evolution of ‘joint commitment’, not just in humans but as a process itself.

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