, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 451–457

Concealing facial evidence of mood: Perspective-taking in a captive gorilla?

  • Joanne E. Tanner
  • Richard W. Byrne
Short Communication

DOI: 10.1007/BF02382654

Cite this article as:
Tanner, J.E. & Byrne, R.W. Primates (1993) 34: 451. doi:10.1007/BF02382654


A captive female lowland gorilla was observed repeatedly to hide or inhibit her playface by placing one or both hands over the face. When this behaviour was seen play usually did not follow immediately, even if other signals associated with play were simultaneously being made by the gorilla. By contrast, a playface predicted that play would follow within a few seconds; this difference was statistically reliable. Several levels of interpretation of the behaviour are possible: hiding the playface may have functioned as a form of deception, a meta-communication, or merely an attempt to suppress the playface. However, by any of these interpretations, the behaviour implies that the gorilla is aware of her spontaneous facial expressions and the consequences they entail. Among the great apes, manual suppression of a facial expression has previously been reported once for chimpanzees but never for gorillas.

Key Words

Gorillas Deception Facial expression Nonverbal communication Gestures Self-awareness 

Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne E. Tanner
    • 1
  • Richard W. Byrne
    • 1
  1. 1.Scottish Primate Research Group, Department of PsychologyUniversity of St. AndrewsSt. Andrews, FifeScotland

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