Keynote of Josep Call

We are pleased to announce that Joseph Call will give a keynote speech at the HRI2010 conference. The title of his talk is: “Action understanding and gesture acquisition in the great apes



A growing number of scholars have suggested that gestural communication may have been especially important in the early stages of language origins. Of special interest in this debate is the communication of other primates, especially those most closely related to humans, the great apes. The aim of this talk is to explore the interrelations between instrumental actions, action understanding and gesture generation in humans and other apes. In doing so, I will contrast the similarities and differences in the use and comprehension of gestures in humans and apes. Like humans, apes use gestures flexibly and they can even learn new gestures. Unlike humans, however, imitative learning does not seem to be the main mechanism underlying gesture acquisition in great apes. Instead apes seem to learn many of their gestures in social interaction with others via processes of ontogenetic ritualization by means of which instrumental actions are transformed into gestures. Like humans, apes can extract information about the goals contained in the actions of others but there is much less evidence that they also grasp some of the representational properties of certain kinds of gestures and the communicative intentions behind them.


Josep Call is co-founder and director of the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center (WKPRC) at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) in Leipzig, Germany, and a senior scientist at the department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology of the MPI-EVA. The WKPRC is the only center worldwide dedicated to the comparative study of the cognition of all four nonhuman great apes. He holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and Masters and Doctorate degrees from Emory University. Prior to joining the MPI-EVA, he was a lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Liverpool. He has published two books and nearly two hundred articles and book chapters on the behavior and cognition of apes and other animals and has presented his work on numerous occasions at international. He is currently the associate editor of the Journal of Comparative Psychology and a member of the editorial board of several other academic journals.

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