Animal Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 1107–1119 | Cite as

Seeing two faces together: preference formation in humans and rhesus macaques

  • David MéaryEmail author
  • Zhihan Li
  • Wu Li
  • Kun Guo
  • Olivier Pascalis
Original Paper


Humans, great apes and old world monkeys show selective attention to faces depending on conspecificity, familiarity, and social status supporting the view that primates share similar face processing mechanisms. Although many studies have been done on face scanning strategy in monkeys and humans, the mechanisms influencing viewing preference have received little attention. To determine how face categories influence viewing preference in humans and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), we performed two eye-tracking experiments using a visual preference task whereby pairs of faces from different species were presented simultaneously. The results indicated that viewing time was significantly influenced by the pairing of the face categories. Humans showed a strong bias towards an own-race face in an Asian–Caucasian condition. Rhesus macaques directed more attention towards non-human primate faces when they were paired with human faces, regardless of the species. When rhesus faces were paired with faces from Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) or chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), the novel species’ faces attracted more attention. These results indicate that monkeys’ viewing preferences, as assessed by a visual preference task, are modulated by several factors, species and dominance being the most influential.


Humans Rhesus macaques Preferences Faces Eye-tracking 



We thank two anonymous reviewers for their fruitful comments on an early version of the manuscript. This research was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant 31125014, Open Research Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning (China) and by a grant from the National Institutes of Health Grant R01 HD046526 (to O. P.).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

In accordance with French standards for behavioral studies, the experiment was approved by the local ethics committee of the Psychology and NeuroCognition Lab (human participants). The animal experiments were conducted at Beijing Normal University, with all procedures in compliance with the US National Institutes of Health Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Beijing Normal University.

Supplementary material

10071_2014_742_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (8.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 8807 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Méary
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhihan Li
    • 3
  • Wu Li
    • 3
  • Kun Guo
    • 2
  • Olivier Pascalis
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Psychologie et Neurocognition, CNRS UMR 5105Université Grenoble AlpesGrenoble Cedex 9France
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning and IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain ResearchBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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