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17 - Primate Communication

Affective, Intentional, or Both?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2022

Bennett L. Schwartz
Florida International University
Michael J. Beran
Georgia State University
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The intentional communication of affective states is a central part of human sociality and cognition. Although nonhuman primates (henceforth primates) also signal intentionally, there is a perceived chasm between their intentional versus affective forms of communication. Whereas primate vocalizations and facial expressions are traditionally viewed as involuntary “read-outs” of affective states, gestures are considered as products of intentional control. However, this traditional view is increasingly contentious, given recent evidence of intentional signal production of primate vocalizations and facial expressions, as well as the general void of arousal-based explanations in gesture research. In this chapter, we challenge the perceived dichotomy between affective and intentional communication in primates and propose a dimensional approach, whereby primate signals can be both affective and intentional, regardless of signal modality (tactile, audible, visible) or component (gesture, facial expression, vocalization). We argue that a dimensional approach, which incorporates both affective and intentional components, would improve our knowledge on how affective and cognitive processes have jointly shaped the evolution of primate communication.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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