Chimpanzees demonstrate a behavioural signature of human joint action

Merryn D Constable*, Emma Suvi McEwen*, Günther Knoblich, Callum Gibson, Amanda Addison, Sophia Nestor, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

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The strength of human society can largely be attributed to the tendency to work together to achieve outcomes that are not possible alone. Effective social coordination benefits from mentally representing a partner's actions. Specifically, humans optimize social coordination by forming internal action models adapted to joint rather than individual task demands. To what extent do humans share the cognitive mechanisms that support optimal human coordination and collaboration with other species? An ecologically inspired joint handover-to-retrieve task was systematically manipulated across several experiments to assess whether joint action planning in chimpanzees reflects similar patterns to humans. Chimpanzees' chosen handover locations shifted towards the location of the experimenter's free or unobstructed hand, suggesting they represent the constraints of the joint task even though their individual half of the task was unobstructed. These findings indicate that chimpanzees and humans may share common cognitive mechanisms or predispositions that support joint action. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.]
Original languageEnglish
Article number105747
Number of pages7
Early online date26 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2024


  • Chimpanzee cognition
  • Co-efficiency
  • Action planning
  • Joint action
  • Co-representation
  • Cooperation


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