Human infants and baboons show the same pattern of handedness for a communicative gesture.

PLoS ONE. 2012;7(3):e33959 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0033959

 

Journal Homepage

Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, XML

 

AUTHORS

Helene Meunier
Jacques Vauclair
Jacqueline Fagard

EDITORIAL INFORMATION

Peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks

 

Abstract | Full Text

To test the role of gestures in the origin of language, we studied hand preferences for grasping or pointing to objects at several spatial positions in human infants and adult baboons. If the roots of language are indeed in gestural communication, we expect that human infants and baboons will present a comparable difference in their pattern of laterality according to task: both should be more right-hand/left-hemisphere specialized when communicating by pointing than when simply grasping objects. Our study is the first to test both human infants and baboons on the same communicative task. Our results show remarkable convergence in the distribution of the two species' hand biases on the two kinds of tasks: In both human infants and baboons, right-hand preference was significantly stronger for the communicative task than for grasping objects. Our findings support the hypothesis that left-lateralized language may be derived from a gestural communication system that was present in the common ancestor of baboons and humans.