Animal Cognition

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 427–434 | Cite as

Gaze following and gaze priming in lemurs

  • April Ruiz
  • Juan Carlos Gómez
  • Jean Jacques Roeder
  • Richard W. Byrne
Original Paper


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.’


Gaze following Theory of mind Prosimians Social reference 



Ruiz’s postgraduate study is funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the Overseas Research Student Award Scheme provided by the British Council. We are grateful to the staff of the Centre de Primatologie for enthusiasm and support. Many thanks to Klaus Zuberbühler, David Perrett, and Robert S. Kelly for providing feedback and discussion that contributed to this project, to Simon W. Townsend for inter-observer reliability, and to three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. The authors attest that the above study complies with the current French laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • April Ruiz
    • 1
  • Juan Carlos Gómez
    • 1
  • Jean Jacques Roeder
    • 2
  • Richard W. Byrne
    • 1
  1. 1.Scottish Primate Research Group and Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, School of PsychologyUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  2. 2.IPHC, DEPE, UMR 7178StrasbourgFrance

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