Abstract # 95:

Scheduled for Friday, June 18, 2010 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 18 (Medallion Ballroom C/D/E/F) Poster Presentation


THE ROLE OF BODY ORIENTATION IN THE ASSESSMENT OF VISUAL ATTENTION BY CAPTIVE WESTERN LOWLAND GORILLAS

A. E. Bania and E. E. Stromberg
Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
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The ability to appreciate the attentional states of others is considered an important element in defining Theory of Mind. Whether primates are able to recognize attention, and further, use such information to predict behavior remains contentious. In this study, six western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) were tested under different conditions that aimed to investigate not only their understanding of what a human experimenter sees, but also what information they use to make these judgments. In all experiments the gorillas selected between two experimenters under different conditions, one who was “seeing” and one who was not. In Experiment 1 the gorillas’ performance was significant in conditions where they judged body posture [One-sample t test: t(5)=18.65, P<0.001], head orientation [t(5)=3.50, P<0.017], and eyes [t(5)=4.51, P<0.006]. In Experiment 2 the gorillas showed that their initial judgments of attention may be based on body posture rather than facial cues [One sample t test: t(5)=2.69, P=0.043] In Experiment 3, the gorillas demonstrated that they were better able to utilize facial cues in some conditions, when paired with a more neutral body orientation [Paired t Test: screens, t(5)=2.75, p=0.040; eyes, t(5)=2.95, P=0.032]. These findings suggest that the gorillas are using a top-down approach to visual attention, evaluating less apparent face and eye cues more readily in the absence of an overt body orientation.