Animal Cognition 6 : 245-251

Finger drawing by infant chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Masayuki Tanaka, Masaki Tomonaga, Tetsuro Matsuzawa


We introduced a new technique to investigate the development of scribbling in very young infants. We tested three infant chimpanzees to compare the developmental processes of scribbling between humans and chimpanzees. While human infants start to scribble on paper at around the age of 18 months, our 13- to 23-month-old infant chimpanzees had never been observed scribbling prior to this study. We used a notebook computer with a touchsensitive screen. This apparatus was able to record the location of the subjects’ touches on the screen. Each touch generated a fingertip-sized dot at the corresponding onscreen location. During spontaneous interactions with this apparatus, all three infants and two mother chimpanzees left scribbles with their fingers on the screen. The scribbles contained not only simple dots or short lines, but also curves and hook-like lines or loops, most of which were observed in the instrumental drawings of adult chimpanzees. The results suggest that perceptual-motor control for finger drawing develops in infant chimpanzees. Two of the infants performed their first scribble with a marker on paper at the age of 20–23 months. Just prior to this, they showed a rapid increase in combinatory manipulation of objects. These findings suggest that the development of combinatory manipulation of objects as well as that of perceptual-motor control may be necessary for the emergence of instrumental drawing on paper.


Infant chimpanzee, Scribble, Electronic finger drawing, Combinatory manipulation

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Tanaka M, Tomonaga M, Matsuzawa T (2003) Finger drawing by infant chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) Animal Cognition 6 : 245-251