, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 679-688
Date: 06 Mar 2010

Facial perception of conspecifics: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes ) preferentially attend to proper orientation and open eyes

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This paper reports on the use of an eye-tracking technique to examine how chimpanzees look at facial photographs of conspecifics. Six chimpanzees viewed a sequence of pictures presented on a monitor while their eye movements were measured by an eye tracker. The pictures presented conspecific faces with open or closed eyes in an upright or inverted orientation in a frame. The results demonstrated that chimpanzees looked at the eyes, nose, and mouth more frequently than would be expected on the basis of random scanning of faces. More specifically, they looked at the eyes longer than they looked at the nose and mouth when photographs of upright faces with open eyes were presented, suggesting that particular attention to the eyes represents a spontaneous face-scanning strategy shared among monkeys, apes, and humans. In contrast to the results obtained for upright faces with open eyes, the viewing times for the eyes, nose, and mouth of inverted faces with open eyes did not differ from one another. The viewing times for the eyes, nose, and mouth of faces with closed eyes did not differ when faces with closed eyes were presented in either an upright or inverted orientation. These results suggest the possibility that open eyes play an important role in the configural processing of faces and that chimpanzees perceive and process open and closed eyes differently.