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Curr Biol. 2005 Mar 29;15(6):543-8.

Monkeys pay per view: adaptive valuation of social images by rhesus macaques.

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Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Individuals value information that improves decision making. When social interactions complicate the decision process, acquiring information about others should be particularly valuable. In primate societies, kinship, dominance, and reproductive status regulate social interactions and should therefore systematically influence the value of social information, but this has never been demonstrated. Here, we show that monkeys differentially value the opportunity to acquire visual information about particular classes of social images. Male rhesus macaques sacrificed fluid for the opportunity to view female perinea and the faces of high-status monkeys but required fluid overpayment to view the faces of low-status monkeys. Social value was highly consistent across subjects, independent of particular images displayed, and only partially predictive of how long subjects chose to view each image. These data demonstrate that visual orienting decisions reflect the specific social content of visual information and provide the first experimental evidence that monkeys spontaneously discriminate images of others based on social status.

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