Animal Cognition

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 216–223 | Cite as

Body orientation and face orientation: two factors controlling apes’ begging behavior from humans

Original Article


A number of animal species have evolved the cognitive ability to detect when they are being watched by other individuals. Precisely what kind of information they use to make this determination is unknown. There is particular controversy in the case of the great apes because different studies report conflicting results. In experiment 1, we presented chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos with a situation in which they had to request food from a human observer who was in one of various attentional states. She either stared at the ape, faced the ape with her eyes closed, sat with her back towards the ape, or left the room. In experiment 2, we systematically crossed the observer’s body and face orientation so that the observer could have her body and/or face oriented either towards or away from the subject. Results indicated that apes produced more behaviors when they were being watched. They did this not only on the basis of whether they could see the experimenter as a whole, but they were sensitive to her body and face orientation separately. These results suggest that body and face orientation encode two different types of information. Whereas face orientation encodes the observer’s perceptual access, body orientation encodes the observer’s disposition to transfer food. In contrast to the results on body and face orientation, only two of the tested subjects responded to the state of the observer’s eyes.


Apes Attentional state Eyes Gaze Social cognition 



We thank the caretakers of the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center in the Leipzig Zoo, Leipzig, Germany, for their help in collecting the data and several anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The reported experiments comply with all laws of the country in which they were performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juliane Kaminski
    • 1
  • Josep Call
    • 1
  • Michael Tomasello
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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