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Effects of parity and age on female attraction to faces of infants and neonates in rhesus macaques


This study investigated the effects of parity and age on female rhesus macaque attention toward infants, and assessed whether the faces of neonates are more attractive than those of older infants. Six nulliparous and six multiparous females were shown digitized images of neonates’ and 5- to 6-month-old infants’ faces. Attention and preferences for images were measured by gaze duration and other picture-directed behaviors, including lip smacking, approaches, and presentations. As predicted, nulliparous females displayed significantly longer gaze durations for images than did multiparous females. There were no significant differences in gaze duration for faces of neonates and those of infants, but images of infants were approached more frequently than images of neonates. This difference is tentatively explained on the basis of differences in female familiarity with neonates’ and infants’ faces and differences in opportunities for allomothering with neonates and infants.

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All experimental and animal care procedures complied with the current laws of Puerto Rico and the United States. The IACUC of the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus approved this investigation (Protocol # 6810103). This study was supported by a grant awarded to M.S. Gerald by The Leakey Foundation and under NIH, NCRR grant CM-20-P40RR003640-13 awarded to the Caribbean Primate Research Center, and awards from the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus. We thank Dr. Janis Gonzalez, Dr. Mario Rodriguez, Dr. Edmundo Kraiselburd, and the caretaking staff of the Sabana Seca Field Station, particularly Milton Martínez, whose logistical support allowed us to complete our experiments successfully. We also thank Dr. Anthony Little and Professor David Perrett for generously providing access to the necessary technical equipment and expertise.

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Correspondence to Corri Waitt.

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Waitt, C., Maestripieri, D. & Gerald, M.S. Effects of parity and age on female attraction to faces of infants and neonates in rhesus macaques. Primates 48, 164–167 (2007).

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  • Infant attractiveness
  • Females
  • Age
  • Parity
  • Rhesus macaque