Emilie Genty

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



Genty E , Palmier C, Roeder JJ (2004) Learning to suppress responses to the larger of two rewards in two species of lemurs, Eulemur fulvus and E. macaco. Animal Behaviour, 67(5):925‑932.

Genty E (2005) Etude des facultés cognitives des lémuriens : l'inhibition comportementale chez le lémur brun (Eulemur fulvus) et le lémur noir (Eulemur macaco). PhD thesis, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France.

Genty E , Roeder JJ (2006) Self-control: why should sea lions, Zalophus californianus, perform better than primates? Animal Behaviour, 72(6):1241‑1247.

Genty E , Roeder JJ (2006) Can lemurs learn to deceive? A study in the black lemur (Eulemur macaco). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 32(2):196‑200.

Genty E , Roeder JJ (2007) Transfer of self-control in black (Eulemur macaco) and brown (Eulemur fulvus) lemurs: Choice of a less preferred food item under a reverse-reward contingency. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 121(4):354‑362.

Genty E , Foltz J, Roeder JJ (2008) Can brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) learn to deceive a human competitor? Animal Cognition, 11(2):255‑266.

Genty E , Breuer T, Hobaiter C, Byrne RW (2009) Gestural communication of the gorilla (Gorilla gorilla): repertoire, intentionality and possible origins. Animal Cognition, 12(3):527‑546.

Genty E , Byrne RW (2009) Why do gorillas make sequences of gestures? Animal Cognition, 13(2):287‑301.

Marechal L, Genty E, Roeder JJ (2010) Recognition of faces of known individuals in two lemur species (Eulemur fulvus and E. macaco). Animal Behaviour, 79(5):1157‑1163

Genty E , Roeder JJ (2011) Can lemurs (Eulemur fulvus and E. macaco) use abstract representations of quantities to master the reverse-reward contingency task? Primates, 52(3):253‑260.

Genty E , Chung PCS, Roeder JJ (2011) Testing brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) on the reverse-reward contingency task without a modified procedure. Behavioural Processes, 86(1):133‑137.  

Genty E , Karpel H, Silberberg A (2012) Time preferences in longtailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and humans (Homo sapiens). Animal Cognition, 15(6):1161‑1172.

Glady Y, Genty E, Roeder JJ (2012) Brown Lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) can master the qualitative version of the reverse-reward contingency. PLoS ONE 7(10): e48378. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048378.  

Genty E , Cäsar C. (2014) Abduction and potential case of predation of an infant howler monkey (Alouatta guariba clamitans) by a tufted capuchin monkey (Sapajus nigritus). Mammalia: DOI: 10.1515/mammalia-2013-0088.

Genty E , Clay Z, Hobaiter C, Zuberbühler K. (2014) Multi-modal use of a socially directed call in bonobos. PLoS One 9 (1) DOI :10.1371/journal.pone.0084738.

Genty E , Zuberbühler K. (2014) Spatial reference in a bonobo gesture. Current Biology, 24(14), 1601-1605.

Genty E , Zuberbühler K. (2015) Iconic gesturing in bonobos. Communicative & Integrative Biology, 8(1), e992742 ; DOI: 10.4161/19420889.2014.992742

Genty, E ., Neumann, C. Zuberbühler, K. (2015) Complex patterns of signalling to convey different social goals of sex in bonobos. Pan paniscus , Scientific reports, 5: 16135.DOI: 10.1038/srep16135

Genty, E ., Neumann, C., Zuberbühler, K. (2015) Bonobos modify communication signals according to recipient familiarity. Scientific reports, 5: 16442. DOI: 10.1038/srep16442.


Emilie Genty


Emilie Genty

FNS postdoctoral fellow

Université de Neuchâtel
Rue Emile Argand 11
CH-2000 Neuchâtel

Room E225

Tel +41 32 718 21 13



Emilie Genty