On evolution of leave-taking

Have you ever wondered how fascina ting would it be to make research on a topic that anyone barely touched upon? Lucy Baehren found herself in a similar position when she started conducting her research on leave-taking. While the topic of greeting (with all social aspects linked to it) among humans and primates is reasonably well covered, the same does not apply to saying goodbyes. Those few studies that examine leave-taking are concerned mostly with human linguistics and part of them focused on primates are not particularly well cross-referenced. All of this indicates how much is this topic under-researched.

Saying goodbye may seem to us as a mundane and ordinary task, but the question, whether it is a domain of exclusively human behaviour, has a great potential for a better understanding of anthropogenesis. Baehren pointed out that process of leave-taking is constituted from three levels and we need to be aware which one of them we are studying. Generally, there is a distinction between leaving frequently for a short period (leaving for school every morning), less frequent long-term leaves (vacation or business trip) and long-term permanent ones (moving away from parents). Each of these sections has several sub-categories and as frequent short-time separation can be counted also the moment when we leave a room (occupied also by someone else apart from us) but we remain within the same household.

Baehren focused her research on behaviours habitually occurring among baboons before intended separation took form. She undertook three months of fieldwork in Mozambique, making opportunistic videos of baboons in their natural habitat. From hours of recordings, she had to select only parts in which behaviour of animals before separation was clearly visible and the whole leave-taking process was not interrupted by interaction with another baboon. A potential reoccurring behavioural pattern that she detected was the orientation of the individual in direction of departure, several-second-long eye gaze in the same way and self-scratch. All these parts of separation with details on the evolution of leave-taking will be analysed in much greater depth in the paper that is currently in preparation. Lucy Baehren showed us several pages from it during her talk, so we are looking forward to reading it once it is published and recommend it to everyone interested in the topic.

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