Bonobo chimps like humans may be hardwired to shake their heads to say ‘no’

May 6th, 2010 - 2:13 pm ICT by ANI  

London, May 6 (ANI): Anthropologists have recently filmed Bonobo chimps shaking their heads from side to side to ’say no’.

This finding may be indicative of the behaviour of humans as primates.

“In bonobos, our observations are the first reported use of preventive head-shaking,” BBC News quoted Ms Christel Schneider from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. She recalled that in one film a mother is seen shaking her head to stop her infant playing with its food.

African great apes such as bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are known to use head gestures such as nodding, bowing and shaking to communicate with other group members, especially while playing.

However, this film suggests the head gestures in a negative context, for the first time. During the study conducted across six European zoos, they witnessed four individual bonobos shaking their heads in this way on 13 different occasions.

The scientists are attributing these gestures to the apparently tolerant, cooperative and egalitarian societies that bonobos live in, with their diffuse hierarchies and complex social structures.

Although not sure of the fact that the chimps definitely shake their heads to say no, scientists consider this solution to be most plausible. And if so, humans may possibly be hard wired to say no by shaking their heads.

However, as Schneider noted that head shaking is not always associated with the negative.

“In some cultures, e.g. Bulgaria, head-shaking can mean yes,” she adds.

The study has been published in the journal Primates. (ANI)

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