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Anim Cogn. 2007 Jan;10(1):55-62. Epub 2006 Jul 18.

Now you see me, now you don't: evidence that chimpanzees understand the role of the eyes in attention.

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1202 W. Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Chimpanzees appear to understand something about the attentional states of others; in the present experiment, we investigated whether they understand that the attentional state of a human is based on eye gaze. In all, 116 adult chimpanzees were offered food by an experimenter who engaged in one of the four experimental manipulations: eyes closed, eyes open, hand over eyes, and hand over mouth. The communicative behavior of the chimpanzees was observed. More visible behaviors were produced when the experimenter's eyes were visible than when the experimenter's eyes were not visible. More vocalizations were produced when the experimenter's eyes were closed than when they were open, but there were no differences in other attention getting behaviors. There was no effect of age or rearing history. The results suggest that chimpanzees use the presence of the eyes as a cue that their visual gestures will be effective.

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