Chimpanzees walk the road together in the same rhythm

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


Humans coordinate their actions when interacting with each other. Such interpersonal coordination may emerge unconsciously and when the goal is not the coordination of movements, as when falling into the same rhythm when walking together. Although, one of our closest living relatives, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), shows the ability to succeed in complex joint actions tasks where coordination is the goal, little is known about simpler forms of joint actions, such as chimpanzees’ tendencies to fall into coordinated movements. Here, we examined whether chimpanzees spontaneously synchronise their actions with conspecifics while walking together. We collected data on individual walking behaviour of two groups of chimpanzees under semi-natural conditions. In addition, we assessed social relationships to investigate potential effects on the strength of coordination. When walking with a conspecific, individuals walked faster than when alone. The relative phase was symmetrically distributed around 0° with the highest frequencies around 0, indicating a tendency to coordinate actions. Further, coordination was stronger when walking with a partner compared to two individuals walking independently. While the inter-limb entrainment was more pronounced between individuals of similar age as a proxy for height, it was not affected by the kinship or bonding status of the walkers. We conclude that chimpanzees adapt their individual behaviour to temporally coordinate actions with others, which might provide a basis for engaging in other more complex forms of joint action. This spontaneous form of inter-individual coordination, often called entrainment, is thus shared with humans.
Period21 Apr 202323 Apr 2023
Held atScottish Primate Research Group, United Kingdom