Postural Congruence and Interaction

At CHCI we do a lot of research on human interactions with the
chimpanzees that live here. I have been thinking a lot about my own
behavior when I interact with Tatu, Loulis, and Dar. So, I thought I
would write about an interaction that Loulis and I just had.

It’s very cold here in Ellensburg during the winter, and the
chimpanzees spend a lot of their time indoors. As such, we try to
provide many fun activities to keep them from developing too-bad a case
of cabin fever. I was in the observation area when Loulis approached me
for a game of chase. Since no other humans were around, I decided to
get especially silly, and jumped up on the window ledge so that I could
be up against the glass. Loulis seemed to think this was excellent, and
started playfully knocking on the glass, and rubbing his knuckles up
and down with a huge play face. I turned my back to him so that I could
kick the glass with my bare feet. He responded in turn by turning his
back and kicking the glass in the same place I was. I found it so
interesting that he changed his posture to imitate my own that when he
climbed down to play more chase, I did the same, and did my best to
make it appear that I was running quadrupedally along the glass with
him. When he back-hand-thumped the glass, I did the same, banging my
wrist on the glass where he banged his wrist. This seemed to make him
even more excited, and we ran along the glass together, banging our
wrists and laughing for many minutes.

My wrist is a little sore now, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson about
how adjusting my own behavior, as Loulis adjusted his, can make for a
great interaction.

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