"Interacting like a human being: How children and non-human primates calibrate requests"

Event Date: 

Friday, March 11, 2022 - 1:30pm to 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • Education 1205
In his paper on the “human interaction engine”, Levinson famously asserted that, in social interaction, people’s responses “are to actions and intentions, not to behaviors” (2006: 45). Indeed human beings attribute intentions/goals to the production of signals and parsing other’s signals means simulating others’ mental worlds, at least to some degree.  But how do speakers calibrate their interactional moves in first position so that they are more likely to elicit their preferred response? Which variables do they take into account?
In this talk I present observational and experimental data on how human (children and adults) and non-human primates (chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans) calibrate requests for actions and for objects. I will discuss the role of prospection, entitlement and accountability in the calibration of requests and outline to what degree non-human primates share with humans cognitive abilities that allow for a flexible assessment of when, how and to whom deliver requests. I will also show where the critical differences lie. In doing so, I will show what it means to interact like a human being.