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Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012;65(12):2411-34. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2012.693110. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

The organization of conspecific face space in nonhuman primates.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA. lparr@emory.edu

Abstract

Humans and chimpanzees demonstrate numerous cognitive specializations for processing faces, but comparative studies with monkeys suggest that these may be the result of recent evolutionary adaptations. The present study utilized the novel approach of face space, a powerful theoretical framework used to understand the representation of face identity in humans, to further explore species differences in face processing. According to the theory, faces are represented by vectors in a multidimensional space, the centre of which is defined by an average face. Each dimension codes features important for describing a face's identity, and vector length codes the feature's distinctiveness. Chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys discriminated male and female conspecifics' faces, rated by humans for their distinctiveness, using a computerized task. Multidimensional scaling analyses showed that the organization of face space was similar between humans and chimpanzees. Distinctive faces had the longest vectors and were the easiest for chimpanzees to discriminate. In contrast, distinctiveness did not correlate with the performance of rhesus monkeys. The feature dimensions for each species' face space were visualized and described using morphing techniques. These results confirm species differences in the perceptual representation of conspecific faces, which are discussed within an evolutionary framework.

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