Animals in Upright Postures Attract Attention in Humans

  • Jessica L. YorzinskiEmail author
  • Richard G. Coss
Research Article


Individual predators differ in the level of risk they represent to prey. Because prey incur costs when responding to predators, prey can benefit by adjusting their antipredator behavior based on the level of perceived risk. Prey can potentially assess the level of risk by evaluating the posture of predators as an index of predators’ motivational state. Like other prey species, humans might evaluate predator body posture as a prominent cue for assessing danger. We tested whether human participants adjusted their visual attention based on the postures of predators by presenting participants with photographic arrays of predators (lions) that varied in postures while we recorded the participants’ gaze behavior. The participants searched for a standing lion (representing a high-risk target) among an array of reclining lions (representing low-risk distractors) or searched for a reclining lion among an array of standing lions. They also searched through similar arrays consisting of non-threatening prey (impalas) standing or reclining, rather than predators. Participants detected standing lions and impala faster than reclining lions and impala. Surprisingly, they detected standing lions at similar latencies as standing impala. They detected the reclining lions and impala more slowly because they spent more time looking at the standing lion and impala distractors and looked at more of those distractors. These results show that upright animals, regardless of whether they are predators or prey, attract attention in humans, and this could allow humans to rapidly evaluate predatory threats or the flight readiness of hunted game.


Attention Humans Delayed disengagement Posture Predator detection 



Maria Tovar and Monica Dooley helped run the trials.

Funding Information

JLY was funded by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The current research was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Texas A&M University (protocol #2016-0575D).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

40806_2019_209_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.5 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 3.45 mb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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