Emilie Genty

Domaines de recherche


Multimodal communication and coordination of joint action in apes: Bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (P. troglodytes)

My research interest lies in the study of non-human primates multimodal communication with a special emphasis on gestures. Through the comparative study of great apes’ communication we are looking for the presence of precursor abilities necessary for the development of human language. I am specifically looking at the way apes convey specific social goals by using combinations of communicative signals and how these combinations vary according to the social context, the signaler’s goal and the recipient’s identity.

My current research project concerns the study of joint activities coordination in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (P. paniscus). With this study, we hope to shed light on the evolutionary origins of the human interaction engine, an ability that allows us to coordinate complex activities independently of language production. It has recently been suggested that the human interaction engine is phylogenetically older than language, and probably a precursor in its evolution. By studying how great apes coordinate complex social activities we are hoping to reveal the presence of important features of the interaction engine in our closest relatives.

This research is part of an FNS interdisciplinary project involving primatologists and human interaction specialists and is the result of the collaboration between the Department of Comparative Cognition and the Institute of Work and Organizational Psychology




bonobo gesture





Clay Z., and Genty, E. (2017)
Natural communication in bonobos: insights into social awareness and the evolution of language.
In: Bonobos. Unique in Mind, Brain and Behaviour (eds. B. Hare and S. Yamamoto). Oxford University Press.

Byrne, R. W., Cartmill, E., Genty, E., Graham, K.E., Hobaiter, C., &Tanner, J. (2017).
Great ape gestures: intentional communication with a rich set of innate signals.
Animal Cognition, 1-15.

Heesen, R., Genty, E., Rossano, F., Zuberbühler, K., & Bangerter, A. (2017)
Social play as a joint action: A framework to study the evolution of shared intentionality as an interactional achievement.
Learning & Behaviour, 1-16.



Emilie Genty





+41 32 718 2113


Université de Neuchâtel
Institut de Biologie
Cognition Comparée
Rue Emile-Argand 11
2000 Neuchâtel

Bureau B23, bâtiment G