The use of gaze shifts as social cues has various evolutionary advantages. To investigate the developmental processes of this ability, we conducted an object-choice task by using longitudinal methods with infant chimpanzees tested from 8 months old until 3 years old. The experimenter used one of six gestures towards a cup concealing food; tapping, touching, whole-hand pointing, gazing plus close-pointing, distant-pointing, close-gazing, and distant-gazing. Unlike any other previous study, we analyzed the behavioral changes that occurred before and after choosing the cup. We assumed that pre-choice behavior indicates the development of an attentional and spatial connection between a pointing cue and an object (e.g. Woodward, 2005); and post-choice behavior indicates the emergence of object permanence (e.g. Piaget, 1954). Our study demonstrated that infant chimpanzees begin to use experimenter-given cues with age (after 11 months of age). Moreover, the results from the behavioral analysis showed that the infants gradually developed the spatial link between the pointing as an object-directed action and the object. Moreover, when they were 11 months old, the infants began to inspect the inside of the cup, suggesting the onset of object permanence. Overall, our results imply that the ability to use the cues is developing and mutually related with other cognitive developments. The present study also suggests what the standard object-choice task actually measures by breaking the task down into the developmental trajectories of its component parts, and describes for the first time the social-physical cognitive development during the task with a longitudinal method.
Barth-Okamoto, S., Tomonaga, M., Tanaka, M., & Matsuzawa, T. (2008). Development of using experimenter-given cues in infant chimpanzees: Behavioral cahnges in cognitive development. Developmental Science, 11(1), 98-108. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00658.x