Understanding the point of chimpanzee pointing: epigenesis and ecological validity

D. Leavens, W. Hopkins, Kim Bard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pointing has long been considered to be a uniquely human, universal, and biologically based gesture. However, pointing emerges spontaneously, without explicit training, in captive chimpanzees. Because pointing is commonplace in captive chimpanzees and virtually absent in wild chimpanzees, and because both captive and wild chimpanzees are sampled from the same gene pool, pointing by captive apes is attributable to environmental influences on communicative development. If pointing by captive chimpanzees is so variably expressed in different rearing environments, this suggests that pointing by humans may also be attributable to situational factors that make pointing effective in certain developmental contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-189
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions In Psychological Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


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