NIAS Wednesday Discussion: "Reaching Out: Intentional and Referential Multimodal Communication between Wild Bonnet Macaques and Humans" by Anindya Sinha, Lecture Hall, NIAS, 0930 hrs

NIAS Wednesday Discussion


“Reaching Out: Intentional and Referential Multimodal Communication

between Wild Bonnet Macaques and Humans”



Anindya Sinha

Professor, School of Natural and Engineering Sciences, NIAS


Chairperson: Binoy V V, Assistant Professor, School of Natural and Engineering Sciences, NIAS,    

26th April, 2017, 9.30 am, Lecture Hall, NIAS


Abstract: Comparative studies of nonhuman communication systems could provide insights into the origins and evolution of two distinctive dimensions of human language: intentionality and referentiality. Recent studies have provided evidence for intentional and referential communication in different taxa, including fish, birds and nonhuman primates but generally in captive settings. We describe here a, hitherto unreported, behaviour of food requesting from humans displayed by wild, individual bonnet macaques Macaca radiata, an Old World cercopithecine primate, in the Bandipur National Park of southern India. Using both natural observations and field experiments, we examined four different behavioural components of food requesting— (1) coo-calls, used in a novel context (2) a unique, previously unknown, hand-extension gesture (3) orientation movements and (4) monitoring behaviour—for their conformity with the established criteria of intentional communication. Our results suggest that all these behavioural acts, except coo-calls, met the criteria of intentionality while the hand-extension gesture could be potentially referential in nature. In this talk, I will comment on the plausible hypotheses for the origin and spread of this unusual behavioural strategy in the study macaque population and discuss the possibility that cognitive precursors for language production may be manifest in multimodal communication, which could have emerged first in simians, much earlier than in the anthropoid apes.

About the Speaker: Anindya Sinha is professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, adjunct faculty at the Centre for Neuroscience, Indian Institute of Science, and senior scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation, all in Bengaluru. Although he earned a doctorate in molecular biology from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, his main research interests lie in the behavioural ecology, cognitive ethology, population and behavioural genetics, urban ecology and human-wildlife relationships, particularly of wild primates and elephants. He is also interested in the philosophy of biology and biology education, and has lectured across different educational and research institutions, both within and outside India.

All are cordially invited

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For further info, please contact Sangeetha Menon [ or] and D. Suba Chandran [], Coordinators of NIAS Wednesday Discussion Meetings, and NIAS Discussion Reports.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017