Surprisingly little is known about the eye movements of chimpanzees, despite the potential contribution of such knowledge to comparative cognition studies. Here, we present the first examination of eye tracking in chimpanzees. We recorded the eye movements of chimpanzees as they viewed naturalistic pictures containing a full-body image of a chimpanzee, a human or another mammal; results were compared with those from humans. We found a striking similarity in viewing patterns between the two species. Both chimpanzees and humans looked at the animal figures for longer than at the background and at the face region for longer than at other parts of the body. The face region was detected at first sight by both species when they were shown pictures of chimpanzees and of humans. However, the eye movements of chimpanzees also exhibited distinct differences from those of humans; the former shifted the fixation location more quickly and more broadly than the latter. In addition, the average duration of fixation on the face region was shorter in chimpanzees than in humans.
Overall, our results clearly demonstrate the eyemovement strategies common to the two primate species and also suggest several notable differences manifested during the observation of pictures of scenes and body forms.
Fumihiro Kano and Masaki Tomonaga
Proc. R. Soc. B published online 4 March 2009