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Assessing joint commitment as a process in great apes

Heesen, R.; Bangerter, A.; Zuberbühler, K.; Iglesias, K.; Neumann, C.; Pajot, A.; Perrenoud, L.; Guéry, JP.; Rossano, F.; Genty, E.

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A. Bangerter

K. Zuberbühler

K. Iglesias

C. Neumann

A. Pajot

L. Perrenoud

JP. Guéry

F. Rossano

E. Genty


Many social animals interact jointly, but only humans experience a specific sense of obligation toward their co-participants, a joint commitment. However, joint commitment is not only a mental state but also a process that reveals itself in the coordination efforts deployed during entry and exit phases of joint action. Here, we investigated the presence and duration of such phases in N = 1,242 natural play and grooming interactions of captive chimpanzees and bonobos. The apes frequently exchanged mutual gaze and communicative signals prior to and after engaging in joint activities with conspecifics, demonstrating entry and exit phases comparable to those of human joint activities. Although rank effects were less clear, phases in bonobos were more moderated by friendship compared to phases in chimpanzees, suggesting bonobos were more likely to reflect patterns analogous to human “face management”. This suggests that joint commitment as process was already present in our last common ancestor with Pan.


Heesen, R., Bangerter, A., Zuberbühler, K., Iglesias, K., Neumann, C., Pajot, A., …Genty, E. (2021). Assessing joint commitment as a process in great apes. iScience, 24(8), Article 102872.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 14, 2021
Online Publication Date Aug 11, 2021
Publication Date Aug 20, 2021
Deposit Date Jul 2, 2021
Publicly Available Date Nov 24, 2021
Journal iScience
Publisher Cell Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 8
Article Number 102872


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