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Full Program with Abstracts

Abstracts of the Workshop on July 1st, 2014

Angela Brandão - Primates’ personality: A new Perspective is Needed

Research on Primates’ personality is relatively recent and has been highly influenced by previous work on human personality. This influence can be observed in the choice of which primates have been studied and in the methodologies most used. Although many advances have been made thus far, there are some limitations to what the most common perspectives can contribute to this new field. Presently the majority of the works adopt the perspective of personality as a set of different traits which tend to be seen as mutually independent, following the factor-analytic theory of the “big 5 Model” and consider its potential applicability to the study of primates’ personality. Proponents argue that this approach simplifies measurement and increases potential comparability of species. However, this presentation will argue that the approach doesn’t’ allow a sufficiently detailed grasp of the diversity of personality of the individual primates and fails to reflect the underlying structure of personality itself. Thus, the new line of research that in the author’s opinion should be developed an invested envisions personality as reflecting a dual dynamic neurological structure, where cognitive and emotional components come together in a coherent form of organization. This combination is reflected in an idiosyncratic way for each individual.

Tiago Carrilho - The Lisbon Zoo: Inspiring Change, Teaching Knowledge and Conserving Biodiversity

With 130 years old, Lisbon Zoo has a strong education concern in all areas in order to improve the knowledge on species biology and behaviour. Some will ask ‘Why a conservation education strategy for LISBON ZOO?  Why now?’ In a time where people are more and more disengaged from the natural world, zoos act as a bridge to wildlife and a conservation education strategy helps us to connect people and wildlife. Facts and figures rarely change hearts and minds, but profound experience of benefit to wildlife is imperative to the future of our planet. Implementing and conceiving new pedagogical-didactic strategies are valuable to the effectiveness of education conservation. To achieve this goal we have to emphasis three aspects that complete the knowledge process: to learn by doing (hands-on), by thinking (minds-on) and by involving oneself (hearts-on). Lisbon zoo's educational proposal achieves to involve 800.000 visitors/ year and offers formal programs to 75.000 students. Lisbon Zoo also recognizes the conservation of certain species as a strategy for the conservation of biodiversity. Lisbon zoo "Temple of Primates" is a tremendous opportunity for inspiring children and adults to care about our closest relatives – APES - and translates into changes in conservation-related behaviour. Lisbon Zoo is involved in several in situ conservation projects like the silvery-brown tamarin in Colombia. This session will give details of these strategies and presents some examples of our conservations education campaigns and activities.

Catarina Casanova – History and Current Work of the Portuguese Primatological Society

In this presentation I will start by describing what were the first primatological studies performed by Portuguese “scientists”. Some of these studies already mentioned tool-use and tool-build, only “rediscovered” by Goodall in the 60’s. From the XVth and XVIth centuries I will move to a description of important primatologists (biological anthropologists, mainly) that had an important role in developing this research field. Names such as Mendes Corrêa were decisive by sending young disciples to the field to study non-human primates in their natural habitat. This presentation will also visit the last two decades of primatological studies in Portugal and/or performed by Portuguese primatologists. Finally, i will talk about the Portuguese Primatological Association, it’s main goals and events such as international and national congresses.

Paulo Gama Mota – Present and Future of Ethological Research in Portugal


Augusta Gaspar - In Search of an Expressway to Emotions: Can We Find It? The Story Told by Human and Great Ape Faces

Great ape faces and human faces display remarkable resemblances in expression and physiognomy. Behavioral studies, either naturalistic or experimentally based, have allowed us to reveal much of what human and nonhuman primate faces can do. One of the major goals of such studies has been to unravel species specific signals, particularly those linked to emotion. The historical search for such pathways to emotion has been a much harder one than could have been predicted roughly 50 years ago, when it all started. And, although well established facial actions linked to affect are but a few, those are quite predictable across cultures and species. To understand the remaining diversity, current research examines multiple factors, such as maturation, culture, context, temperament and their interplay both on the side of the sender and on the receiver.

Nathalie Gontier - The Evolution of Language

Emotions, expressions, vocal signaling, manual and bodily gestures are evolved means whereby primates, including humans, communicate socially. Additionally, humans have invented signed and vocal languages that not only enable social communication but also abstract, symbolic and creative thought on the past, present, future and the inexistent. The development and evolution of social communication in humans and other primates has been studied from within multiple disciplines, ranging from Ethology and Comparative Zoology, over Primatology and Comparative Psychology, to Evolutionary Psychology and Evolutionary Linguistics. I will briefly sketch the epistemic frameworks of these various fields and give directions for future research.

Tetsuro Matszuzawa - The Evolutionary Origins of Human Cognition Viewed from the Study of Chimpanzees

I have studied chimpanzees both in the wild and in the laboratory. My talk compares cognitive development in the two species, shedding light on the evolutionary origins of human cognition. An upright posture and bipedal locomotion may have been important in human evolution. However, in terms of cognitive development, the morphological feature that contributed most to making us human is the ability to remain stable in a supine posture. The human mother–infant relationship is characterized by physical separation (although remaining in close proximity), and the stable supine posture of infants; enabling face-to-face communication via facial expressions, vocal exchange, and manual gestures, and also demonstration of object manipulation. Cognitive development in chimpanzees was studied using the novel ‘participant observation’ method in the laboratory and through “field experiments” in their natural habitat. This research has revealed that humans and chimpanzees are largely similar at early developmental stages. However, there are several critical differences: chimpanzees lack the social referencing ability observed in human children and chimpanzees seldom engage in active teaching. Moreover, although young chimpanzees showed unique working memory capacity, often superior to that of human adults, they are less able to learning symbols. In sum, cognitive development in humans is fundamentally influenced by the manner of raising young children; characterized by collaboration among multiple adults. This aspect of human rearing may be linked to the development of empathy, altruistic behavior, reciprocity, understanding others’ minds, and so on. Taken together, my talk presents evolutionary and ontogenetic explanations for the uniquely human characteristics of cognition. For further information, please visit this website.


Marco Pina - Book launch: The Evolution of Social Communication in Primates (Springer, Interdisciplinary Evolution Research)

How did social communication evolve in primates? In this volume, primatologists, linguists, anthropologists, cognitive scientists and philosophers of science systematically analyze how their specific disciplines demarcate the research questions and methodologies involved in the study of the evolutionary origins of social communication in primates in general, and in humans in particular. In the first part of the book, historians and philosophers of science address how the epistemological frameworks associated with primate communication and language evolution studies have changed over time, and how these conceptual changes affect our current studies on the subject matter. In the second part, scholars provide cutting-edge insights into the various means through which primates communicate socially in both natural and experimental settings. They examine the behavioral building blocks by which primates communicate, and they analyze what the cognitive requirements are for displaying communicative acts. Chapters highlight cross-fostering and language experiments with primates, primate mother-infant communication, the display of emotions and expressions, manual gestures and vocal signals, joint attention, intentionality and theory of mind. The primary focus of the third part is on how these various types of communicative behavior possibly evolved, and how they can be understood as evolutionary precursors to human language.  Leading scholars analyze how both manual and vocal gestures gave way to mimetic and imitational protolanguage, and how the latter possibly transitioned into human language. In the final part, we turn to the hominin lineage, and anthropologists, archeologists and linguists investigate what the necessary neurocognitive, anatomical and behavioral features are in order for human language to evolve, and how language differs from other forms of primate communication. More information on the book can be found here.

António J. Santos - Affiliative Subgroups in Preschool Classrooms: An Integration of Social Ethology and Sociometric Traditions in Child Development

Recent studies of school-age children’s and/or adolescent groups have used social network analyses to characterize processes and mechanisms associated with both selection and socialization aspects of subgroup membership. Fewer network studies have been reported for preschool classrooms and many of those focused on structural descriptions of peer networks, and/or, on selection processes rather than on consequences of subgroup membership. To examine structural features, selection processes, and influence processes in early childhood, we studied 19 Portuguese preschool groups with reference to physical proximity and social engagement. Children also completed three sociometric tasks. High mutual proximity (HMP), low mutual proximity (LMP), and ungrouped children were identified. Significant in-group preference differences were observed between HMP and LMP subgroups for social engagement and sociometric measures. In-group preferences were more marked for HMP subgroups suggesting a functional distinction between the two types. HMP subgroups appear to reflect friendship relationships, whereas LMP subgroups appear to reflect common social goals, but without strong dyadic relationships. Although neither sociometric status categories nor stratification of subgroups according to their overall peer acceptance levels were critical factors affecting subgroup characteristics, individual histories of subgroup membership across consecutive years did predict reciprocated friendships. Being a member of HMP subgroups in consecutive years was associated with increasing numbers of reciprocated friendships. This last result suggests that subgroup forms can influence the trajectory of a child’s success in the stable social contexts of early childhood. Additional analyses with larger samples will be needed to test these hypotheses.

Francisco C. Santos - Climate change governance and the evolution of collective action (joint work with Jorge M. Pacheco, Vítor V. Vasconcelos and Simon A. Levin)

The welfare of our planet stands as a perfect example of what scientists commonly refer to as public goods — a global good from which everyone profits, whether or not they contribute to maintain it. Unfortunately, individuals, regions or nations may opt to be “free riders”, hoping to benefit from the efforts of others while choosing not to make any effort themselves. Moreover, nations and their leaders seek a collective goal that is shadowed by the uncertainty of its achievement. Such types of uncertainties have repeatedly happened throughout human history from group hunting to voluntary adoption of public health measures and other prospective choices. In this talk, I will discuss an evolutionary dynamics approach to a broad class of cooperation problems in which attempting to minimize future losses turns the risk of failure into a central issue in individual decisions. Our results suggest that global coordination for a common good should be attempted by segmenting tasks in many small to medium sized groups in which perception of risk is high. Moreover, whenever the perception of risk is low — as it is presently the case — we find that a polycentric approach involving multiple institutions is more effective than that associated with a single, global one, indicating that a bottom-up approach, setup at a local scale, provides a better ground on which to attempt a solution for such a complex and global dilemma. Finally, I will briefly discuss the impact of inequality and homophily on public goods dilemmas, including a distribution of wealth representative of existing inequalities among nations.

Cláudia Sousa - Chimpanzee Tool-Use and Handedness

The use of tools is an activity that involves relating several objects to one another, being more cognitively complex than other types of object use. It requires the use of hands in a skilful manner. Among non-human primates, chimpanzees show the most diverse, flexible and complex tool-using repertoires, that can include the combination of two or more tools for a single goal, the use different raw materials. They are proficient tool-users, making and using a variety of tools in subsistence and non-subsistence activities. They show an understanding of the task when using tools, and heir technological system is frequently described as the most sophisticated form of material intelligence among non-human animals in the wild. They also show different behavioural adaptation when performing different types of tool-se behaviour. Chimpanzees exhibit different handedness patterns when performing different tool-use behaviours. For example, leaf-tool use is a non-lateralised activity, but nut-cracking is a highly lateralised behaviour, with perfect handedness at the adult individual level. Possible explanations for the earlier emergence and increased ambidextrousness that accompanies leaf-tool use in comparison with other forms of tool-use by wild chimpanzees will be presented.