Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cooperative Interaction in an Infant Gorilla

There seems to be a very interestig article in a Special Issue of Interaction Studies with a focus on Human-Animal Interaction, which challenges some of the assumptions underlying Michael Tomasello's claim that the ability for shared intentionality and cooperation (see e.g. here) is what makes us uniquely human.

The article is by Juan Carlos Gómez of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and is titled
"The ontogeny of triadic cooperative interactions with humans in an infant gorilla." Unofortunately I don't have access to the paper but here's the abstract:

This paper reports a longitudinal study on the ontogeny of triadic cooperative interactions (involving coordinations of objects and people) in a hand-reared lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) from 6 months to 36 months of age. Using the behavioural categories developed by Hubley and Trevarthen (1979) to characterize the origins of “secondary intersubjectivity” in human babies between 8–12 months of age, I chart the emergence of comparable coordinations of gestures and actions with objects and acts of dyadic communication. The findings show that the categories and concepts of secondary intersubjectivity are applicable to the gorilla, who engages with people in cooperative actions with objects. The ontogeny of triadic interaction in the gorilla was very similar to that described in human infants, but more extended in time and with some peculiarities, such as the absence of pointing and showing gestures, some of whose functions might be taken over by contact gestures which in human infants may appear later in development. The results do not support claims of human uniqueness in the development of cooperative action, but suggest a heterochrony in some aspects of the ontogeny of triadic interactions leading to a divergence between gorilla and human infants within secondary intersubjectivity.
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