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We report on the development of a novel shared touch-panel apparatus for examining a diverse range of topics in great ape social cognition and interaction. Our apparatus-named the Arena System-is composed of a single multitouch monitor that spans across two separate testing booths, so that individuals situated in each booth have tactile access to half of the monitor and visual access to the whole monitor. Additional components of the system include a smart-film barrier able to restrict visual access between the booths, as well as two automated feeding devices that dispense food rewards to the subjects. The touch-panel, smart-film, and feeders are controlled by a PC that is also responsible for running the experimental tasks. We present data from a pilot behavioral game theory study with two chimpanzees in order to illustrate the efficacy of our method, and we suggest applications for a range of topics including animal social learning, coordination, and behavioral economics. The system enables fully automated experimental procedures, which means that no human participation is needed to run the tasks. The novel use of a touch-panel in a social setting allows for a finer degree of data resolution than do the traditional experimental apparatuses used in prior studies on great ape social interaction.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Methods

Publication Date





611 - 618


Animal Communication, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Cognition, Equipment Design, Female, Learning, Pan troglodytes, Reward, Social Behavior, Touch, User-Computer Interface