How do humans and their closest relatives, chimpanzees, differ in their fundamental abilities for seeing the visual world? In this study, we directly compared the gaze movements of humans and the closest species, chimpanzees, using an eye-tracking system. During free viewing of a naturalistic scene, chimpanzees made more fixations per second (up to four) than did humans (up to three). This species difference was independent of the semantic variability of the presented scenes. The gap–overlap paradigm revealed that, rather than resulting from the sensitivity to the peripherally presented stimuli per se, the species difference reflected the particular strategy each species employed to solve the rivalry between central (fixated) and peripheral stimuli in their visual fields. Finally, when presented with a movie in which small images successively appeared/disappeared at random positions at the chosen presentation rate, chimpanzees tracked those images at the point of fixation for a longer time than did humans, outperforming humans in their speed of scanning. Our results suggest that chimpanzees and humans differ quantitatively in their visual strategies involving the timing of gaze movement. We discuss the functional reasons for each species’ employing such specific strategies.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Berg DJ, Boehnke SE, Marino RA, Munoz DP, Itti L (2009) Free viewing of dynamic stimuli by humans and monkeys. J Vision 9(5):1–15
Chua HF, Boland JE, Nisbett RE (2005) Cultural variation in eye movements during scene perception. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102(35):12629–12633
De Graef P, Christiaens D, d’Ydewalle G (1990) Perceptual effects of scene context on object identification. Psychol Res 52(4):317–329
Findlay JM, Walker R (1999) A model of saccade generation based on parallel processing and competitive inhibition. Behav Brain Sci 22(04):661–674
Fuchs AF (1967) Saccadic and smooth pursuit eye movements in the monkey. J Physiol 191(3):609–631
Gothard KM, Erickson CA, Amaral DG (2004) How do rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) scan faces in a visual paired comparison task? Anim Cogn 7(1):25–36
Gould JD (1973) Eye movements during visual search and memory search. J Exp Psychol 98(1):184–195
Green CS, Bavelier D (2007) Video-action-game experience alters spatial resolution of vision. Psychol Sci 18(1):88–94
Hattori Y, Kano F, Tomonaga M (2010) Differential sensitivity to conspecific and allospecific cues in chimpanzees and humans: a comparative eye-tracking study. Biol Lett 6(5):610–613
Henderson JM, Hollingworth A (1999) High-level scene perception. Annu Rev Psychol 50:243–271
Henderson JM, Weeks PA Jr, Hollingworth A (1999) The effects of semantic consistency on eye movements during complex scene viewing. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 25(1):210–228
Hirata S, Fuwa K, Sugama K, Kusunoki K, Fujita S (2010) Facial perception of conspecifics: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) preferentially attend to proper orientation and open eyes. Anim Cogn 13(5):679–688
Hood BM, Atkinson J (1993) Disengaging visual attention in the infant and adult. Infant Behav Dev 16(4):405–422
Hooge ITC, Erkelens CJ (1999) Peripheral vision and oculomotor control during visual search. Vision Res 39(8):1567–1575
Humphrey N (2002) The deformed transformed. In the mind made flesh: essays from the frontiers of psychology and evolution. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 165–199
Inoue S, Matsuzawa T (2007) Working memory of numerals in chimpanzees. Curr Biol 17(23):1004–1005
Kano F, Tomonaga M (2009) How chimpanzees look at pictures: a comparative eye-tracking study. Proc Roy Soc B 276(1664):1949–1955
Kano F, Tomonaga M (2010) Face scanning in chimpanzees and humans: continuity and discontinuity. Anim Behav 79:227–235
Kano F, Tomonaga M (2011) Perceptual mechanism underlying gaze guidance in chimpanzees and humans. Anim Cogn 14(3):377–386. doi:10.1007/s10071-010-0372-3
Land M, Mennie N, Rusted J (1999) The roles of vision and eye movements in the control of activities of daily living. Perception 28(11):1311–1328
Landry R, Bryson SE (2004) Impaired disengagement of attention in young children with autism. J Child Psychol Psychiat 45(6):1115–1122
Matsuno T, Kawai N, Matsuzawa T (2004) Color classification by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in a matching-to-sample task. Behav Brain Res 148(1–2):157–165
Matsuzawa T (1985) Colour naming and classification in a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). J Hum Evol 14(3):283–291
Matsuzawa T (1990) Form perception and visual acuity in a chimpanzee. Folia Primatol 55(1):24–32
Matsuzawa T (2009) Symbolic representation of number in chimpanzees. Curr Opin Neurobiol 19(1):92–98
Matsuzawa T, Tomonaga M, Tanaka M (2006) Cognitive development in chimpanzees. Springer, Tokyo
Mendelson MJ, Haith MM, Goldmanrakic PS (1982) Face scanning and responsiveness to social cues in infant rhesus monkeys. Dev Psychol 18(2):222–228
Parr LA, Dove T, Hopkins WD (1998) Why faces may be special: evidence of the inversion effect in chimpanzees. J Cogn Neurosci 10(5):615–622
Parr LA, Hecht E, Barks SK, Preuss TM, Votaw JR (2009) Face processing in the chimpanzee brain. Curr Biol 19(1):50–53
Pusey A, Murray C, Wallauer W, Wilson M, Wroblewski E, Goodall J (2008) Severe aggression among female Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Int J Primatol 29(4):949–973
Rayner K (1998) Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychol Bullet 124:372–422
Rayner K, Inhoff AW, Morrison RE, Slowiaczek ML, Bertera JH (1981) Masking of foveal and parafoveal vision during eye fixations in reading. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 7(1):167–179
Shepherd SV, Steckenfinger SA, Hasson U, Ghazanfar AA (2010) Human–monkey gaze correlations reveal convergent and divergent patterns of movie viewing. Curr Biol 20(7):649–656
Tomonaga M (2007) Visual search for orientation of faces by a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes): face-specific upright superiority and the role of facial configural properties. Primates 48(1):1–12
Tomonaga M, Imura T (2009) Faces capture the visuospatial attention of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): evidence from a cueing experiment. Front Zool 6(1):14
van Diepen PMJ, Wampers M, d’Ydewalle G (1998) Functional division of the visual field: moving masks and moving windows. In: Underwood GDM (ed) Eye guidance in reading and scene perception. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 337–355
This research received financial support from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) under the Japan Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (nos. 16002001, 19300091, 20002001, 212299) and the JSPS/MEXT global COE programs (D07 and A06). We thank Drs T. Matsuzawa, S. B. Hrdy, I. Adachi, S. Hirata, and Y. Hattori for their help and invaluable comments. We also thank the Centre for Human Evolution Modelling Research at the Primate Research Institute for the daily care of the chimpanzees.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Kano, F., Tomonaga, M. Species difference in the timing of gaze movement between chimpanzees and humans. Anim Cogn 14, 879–892 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-011-0422-5
- Fixation duration