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Social manipulation, turn-taking and cooperation in apes Implications for the evolution of language-based interaction in humans


This paper outlines how the focus on how communicative signals might emerge and how the capacity to interpret them might develop, does not yet explain what type of motivation is required to actually deal with those signals. Without the consistent production of appropriate responses to the production of communicative signals, there would be no point in producing any signal. If language is a tool to accomplish things with others, we need to understand what would lead to cooperation. The first step consists in avoiding the blind belief that all cooperation requires some prosocial attitude. A great deal of cooperation can occur while each participant in the interaction is selfishly attempting to maximize their own benefits or minimizing damaging consequences. I describe how different types of turn-taking can be achieved via different levels of cognitive complexity and how interpretive turn-taking requires a great deal of cognitive abilities that great apes possess. Finally, I provide empirical evidence of social manipulation in non-human primates. Given our awareness of the occurrence of social manipulation during cooperation among human adults, it seems necessary to reconsider to what degree human communication and language evolution require unique prosocial motivations.

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