Measurement of eye-gaze in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)


Bethell EJ, Vick S & Bard KA (2007) Measurement of eye-gaze in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). American Journal of Primatology, 69 (5), pp. 562-575.

Gaze cues are used as an index of social cognition in primates, yet the sensitivity to different forms of gaze, and consequently the cues required to test gaze-following abilities remain understudied. Whereas the eye is attributed special signal value in humans, the camouflaged ocular morphology of non-human primates has led to the consensus that head orientation may be a more salient cue. This study presents the first documentation of the surface eye movements of the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, in order to determine the behavioral forms of eye-gaze and their saliency as signals, document their functional variation, and address the signal value of the eyes distinct from head orientation. Movements of the eye were identified as Scan (continuous movement), Glance (a single movement <1?sec), or Fixate (no movement). Scans, glances, and fixations were reliably detected by humans during live observation and from video (Cohen's kappa over 0.70) and, therefore, are likely also to be detected by conspecifics. Eye-gaze comprised a nonunitary measure of visual attention, reflecting the attentional task demands of different activities. Specifically, chimpanzees spent significantly more time scanning while feeding and resting, than grooming, F(2,28) = 10.23, P<0.001, and spent significantly more time fixating while grooming, than feeding or resting, F(2,28) = 7.52, P<0.01. Further, eye-gaze was often incongruent with head movement, varying significantly with the form of eye-gaze: incongruence was found during 12-21% of fixations, during 42-49% of scans, and during 70-100% of glances, F(2,16) = 30.17, P<0.001. These findings provide the basis for discrimination of the adaptive significance of gaze-processing abilities with emphasis on sensitivity to eye-gaze distinct from head orientation. If we are to continue exploring gaze-processing abilities in primates, then we need greater consideration of the precise nature of the signals themselves. Here we present evidence for special consideration of the eyes as a salient signal in P. troglodytes. Am. J. Primatol. 69:562-575, 2007. ¸ 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

visual attention; social cognition; eye movements; apes

American Journal of Primatology: Volume 69, Issue 5

Publication date31/05/2007