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Joint attention in wild Sulawesi crested macaques

Kirsty E. Graham, PI: Katie Slocombe, University of York, UK - 2018

We propose to study joint attention in Sulawesi crested macaques at Tangkoko, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Joint attention is the ability of at least two individuals to share attention about an object or event, and it has been argued that joint attention is vital for human language and complex cooperation. Although studies have looked at joint attention in non-human species, no study to date has compared humans (across different cultures) and other primates using the same methods. In our research project, we will collect observational and experimental data for British humans, Ugandan humans, chimpanzees, and Sulawesi crested macaques. Sulawesi crested macaques are a socially tolerant species and may therefore be more likely than other monkey species to engage in joint attention. We aim to investigate if joint attention events or skills are present in Sulawesi crested macaques, what factors in their socio-ecological environment might predict their joint attention abilities and how joint attention abilities predict later cooperative behaviour. We will study mother-infant dyads regularly over the first 2 years of the infants’ life in order to answer these research questions. We have already succeeded in acquiring ethical approval from the University of York for our research across all four study groups (including Sulawesi crested macaques).