Animal Cognition

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 517–523

The Thatcher illusion in squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus)

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10071-012-0479-9

Cite this article as:
Nakata, R. & Osada, Y. Anim Cogn (2012) 15: 517. doi:10.1007/s10071-012-0479-9


Like humans, Old World monkeys are known to use configural face processing to distinguish among individuals. The ability to recognize an individual through the perception of subtle differences in the configuration of facial features plays an important role in social cognition. To test this ability in New World monkeys, this study examined whether squirrel monkeys experience the Thatcher illusion, a measure of face processing ability in which changes in facial features are difficult to detect in an inverted face. In the experiment, the monkeys were required to distinguish between a target face and each of the three kinds of distracter faces whose features were altered to be different from those of the target. For each of the pairs of target and distracter faces, four rotation-based combinations of upright and inverted face presentations were used. The results revealed that when both faces were inverted and the eyes of the distracter face were altered by rotating them at an angle of 180° from those of the target face, the monkeys’ discrimination learning was obstructed to a greater extent than it was under the other conditions. Thus, these results suggest that the squirrel monkey does experience the Thatcher illusion. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to assume that squirrel monkeys can utilize information about facial configurations in individual recognition and that this facial configuration information could be useful in their social communications.


FaceThatcher illusionNew World monkeysSquirrel monkeysConfigural face processing

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRikkyo UniversityNiiza City, SaitamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Integrative NeuroscienceUniversity of ToyamaToyamaJapan