, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 141-148
Date: 31 Aug 2006

I know you are not looking at me: capuchin monkeys’ (Cebus apella) sensitivity to human attentional states

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The present study asked whether capuchin monkeys recognize human attentional states. The monkeys requested food from the experimenter by extending an arm (pointing) toward the baited one of two transparent cups. On regular trials the experimenter gave the food immediately to the monkeys upon pointing but on randomly inserted test trials she ignored the pointing for 5 s during which she displayed different attentional states. The monkeys looked at the experimenter's face longer when she looked at the monkeys than when she looked at the ceiling in Experiment 1, and longer when she oriented her head midway between the two cups with eyes open than when she did so with eyes closed in Experiment 2. However, the monkeys showed no differential pointing in these conditions. These results suggest that capuchins are sensitive to eye direction but this sensitivity does not lead to differential pointing trained in laboratory experiments. Furthermore, to our knowledge, this is the first firm behavioral evidence that non-human primates attend to the subtle states of eyes in a food requesting task.