Object use in communication of semi-wild chimpanzees

Violet Gibson, Sarah T Boysen, Catherine Hobaiter, Marina Davila-Ross*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Object interactions play an important role in human communication but the extent to which nonhuman primates incorporate objects in their social interactions remains unknown. To better understand the evolution of object use, this study explored how objects are used in social interactions in semi-wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We used an observational approach focusing on naturally occurring object actions where we examined their use and tested whether the production of object actions was influenced by the recipients' visual attention as well as by colony membership. The results show that chimpanzees adjusted both the type of object used, and the modality of object actions to match the visual attention of the recipient, as well as colony differences in the use of targeted object actions. These results provide empirical evidence highlighting that chimpanzees use objects in diverse ways to communicate with conspecifics and that their use may be shaped by social factors, contributing to our understanding of the evolution of human nonverbal communication, language, and tool use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1521-1537
Number of pages17
JournalAnimal Cognition
Early online date14 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Object use
  • Tool use
  • Communication
  • Social interactions
  • Chimpanzees


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