Imitation of Gestures

    Imitation in the great apes is a controversial and complex subject. Defining "imitation" and cognitive mechanisms involved has been an ongoing challenge to research. In a spontaneous session at the San Francisco Zoo, the gorilla Zura responded to the investigator's gesturing by reproducing good copies of some of her gestures. For more information, see:

Byrne, Richard W. & Tanner, Joanne E. (2006). Gestural Imitation by a Gorilla: Evidence and Nature of the Capacity. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, Vol. 6 No. 2, 215-231; special issue on Animal Learning and Cognition, ed. Tom Zentall.


swing arm up demonstrated

swing arm up; Zura’s action

slap top of head demonstrated

slap top of head; Zura’s action

slap shoulders demonstrated

slap shoulders; Zura’s action

slap cheek demonstrated

slap cheek; Zura’s action


- Dr. Joanne Tanner

- Charles Ernest




SF Zoo Gorillas


Gorilla Gestures Intro


- Why Create Gestures

- Tactile

- Visual

- Audible

- Iconic

- Imitation

- Phrases/Exchanges

- Other Zoos

- Gesture Table

- Triadic Play Intro

- Triadic Play Research


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