Marmoset Monkeys Can Engage in Polite Conversations Similar to Humans: Study
Humans are not the only primates in the world that can carry on polite conversation. A new study reveals that marmoset monkeys too engage in social chit chat.
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This surprising discovery by researchers from Princeton University, makes marmosets unique when compared to their closest primate relatives, the chimps, who do not wait for their turn to speak and are actually not very vocal. Most often they use their repertoire of gestures to communicate. The study claims that marmoset monkeys engage one another in conversations for nearly 30 minutes at a time.
The marmoset monkeys wait for their turn to talk and carry polite conversations and are friendly with other members of the group. This study highlights an interesting aspect that these species have a lot more in common with homo sapiens than previously believed.
"We were surprised by how reliably the marmoset monkeys exchanged their vocalizations in a cooperative manner, particularly since in most cases they were doing so with individuals that they were not pair-bonded with. This makes what we found much more similar to human conversations and very different from the coordinated calling of animals such as birds, frogs, or crickets, which is linked to mating or territorial defense," Asif Ghazanfar of Princeton University, said in a statement.
Their ability to communicate politely and their friendliness, which is in common with humans, drew the attention of Ghazanfar and co-author Daniel Takahashi.. These features support the self monitored give and take that a good conversation calls for.
To investigate further, the researchers placed the marmosets in opposite corners of a room, where they could just hear but could not see the other. The researchers then recorded 54 sessions between 10 marmosets in various combinations where a few were cage mates and the others were not. The exchanges that developed between marmosets was analyzed. They noticed that the marmosets don't call each other at the same time but they patiently wait for 5 seconds after one is finished calling before responding.
The researchers observed that when it comes to etiquettes they tend to follow a set of unspoken rules. In humans the smallest unit of communication is a word or syllable but for marmosets the minimal unit is the phee call -long distance calls between marmosets.
"Marmosets don't have the same sophisticated semantic and syntactic skills as humans, nor do they display much evidence of shared intentionality, but they do have in common with humans a cooperative breeding strategy and volubility," the study said.
Studies conducted further can explain why not only humans communicate with each other but also why at times conversations break down.
Ghazanfar says "We are currently exploring how very early life experiences in marmosets -- including those in the womb and through to parent-infant vocal interactions -- can illuminate what goes awry in human communication disorders."
he findings are documented in the Press journal Current Biology.