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Anim Behav. 1998 Apr;55(4):1063-9.

Five primate species follow the visual gaze of conspecifics.

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  • 1Department of PsychologyandYerkes Regional Primate Research Center, Emory University

Abstract

Individuals from five primate species were tested experimentally for their ability to follow the visual gaze of conspecifics to an outside object. Subjects were from captive social groups of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, sooty mangabeys, Cercocebus atys torquatus, rhesus macaques, Macaca mulatta, stumptail macaques, M. arctoides, and pigtail macaques, M. nemestrina. Experimental trials consisted of an experimenter inducing one individual to look at food being displayed, and then observing the reaction of another individual (the subject) that was looking at that individual (not the food). Control trials consisted of an experimenter displaying the food in an identical manner when the subject was alone. Individuals from all species reliably followed the gaze of conspecifics, looking to the food about 80% of the time in experimental trials, compared with about 20% of the time in control trials. Results are discussed in terms of both the proximate mechanisms that might be involved and the adaptive functions that might be served by gaze-following. Copyright 1998 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Copyright 1998 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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