Communication in Nonhuman Primates

Klaus Zuberbühler

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738182
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Communication in Nonhuman Primates


Three major evolutionary trends are visible in primate communication. The first one has to do with the basic signal production mechanisms being increasingly controlled by complex cognition. This is evident by audience effects with gestural and vocal signals and by context-specific call sequences. The second transition has to do with increased control over signal morphology, a feature somewhat visible in ape vocal and gestural communication and particularly human language. The third transition is apparent in signal-processing mechanisms, which are increasingly based on learned world facts, rather than mere stimulus-response conditioning. Human communication appears to differ only gradually from other primates in these domains, apart from a highly cooperative social motivation, which influences human communication in profound ways.

Keywords: Cognition; flexibility; semantic; syntax; language evolution; social awareness; intention; social intelligence; vocal learning

Article.  14869 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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