Social referencing by young chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

C. Russell, Kim Bard, L.B. Adamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social referencing is the seeking of information from another individual and the use of that information to evaluate a situation. It is a well-documented ability in human infants but has not been studied experimentally in nonhuman primates. Seventeen young nursery-reared chimpanzees (14 to 41 months old) were observed in a standard social referencing paradigm in which they received happy and fear messages concerning novel objects from a familiar human caregiver. Each chimpanzee looked referentially at their caregiver, and the emotional messages that they received differentially influenced their gaze behavior and avoidance of the novel objects. It is concluded that chimpanzees can acquire information about their complex social and physical environments through social referencing and can use emotional information to alter their own behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1997


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