, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 427-434
Date: 24 Dec 2008

Gaze following and gaze priming in lemurs

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Although primates have often been found to co-orient visually with other individuals, members of these same species have usually failed to use co-orientation to find hidden food in object-choice experiments. This presents an evolutionary puzzle: what is the function of co-orientation if it is not used for a function as basic as locating resources? Co-orientation responses have not been systematically investigated in object-choice experiments, and requiring co-orientation with humans (as is typical in object-choice tasks) may underestimate other species’ abilities. Using an object-choice task with conspecific models depicted in photographs, we provide experimental evidence that two lemur species (Eulemur fulvus, n = 4, and Eulemur macaco, n = 2) co-orient with conspecifics. Secondly, by analysing together two measures that have traditionally been examined separately, we show that lemurs’ gaze following behaviour and ultimate choice are closely linked. Individuals were more likely to choose correctly after having looked in the same direction as the model, and thus chose objects correctly more often than chance. We propose a candidate system for the evolutionary origins of more complex gaze following: ‘gaze priming.’