Behavioral research has provided another insight into the mental workings of our fellow apes: linkurl:orangutans can play charades;http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6926703.stm . This finding enriches our concept of primate communication, a phenomenon most likely important in the transmission of customs and the eventual establishment of cultures among our primate cousins. I wrote about linkurl:chimp culture;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/8/1/28/1/ (and orangutan customs) in our August issue. While it doesn't appear that orangutans can mime linkurl:__Gone with the Wind__;http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031381/ by flailing their shaggy orange arms, they do seem to alter gestural cues to speed the attainment of goals, much like players of the old-timey parlor game trying to extract accurate guesses from team members. A human gesticulator playing charades might repeat and intensify a gesture when her team is close to guessing the correct answer or may abandon a particular gesture when her team is heading down the wrong track. Orangutans, studied by psychologist linkurl:Richard Byrne;http://psy.st-andrews.ac.uk/people/lect/rwb.shtml and his...
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