Monkeys Preferentially Process Body Information While Viewing Affective Displays

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Abstract

Despite evolutionary claims about the function of facial behaviors across phylogeny, rarely are those hypotheses tested in a comparative context—that is, by evaluating how nonhuman animals process such behaviors. Further, while increasing evidence indicates that humans make meaning of faces by integrating contextual information, including that from the body, the extent to which nonhuman animals process contextual information during affective displays is unknown. In the present study, we evaluated the extent to which rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) process dynamic affective displays of conspecifics that included both facial and body behaviors. Contrary to hypotheses that they would preferentially attend to faces during affective displays, monkeys looked for longest, most frequently, and first at conspecifics’ bodies rather than their heads. These findings indicate that macaques, like humans, attend to available contextual information during the processing of affective displays, and that the body may also be providing unique information about affective states.

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