Chimpanzee faces under the magnifying glass: emerging methods reveal cross-species similarities and individuality

Kim Bard, A. Gaspar, S-J. Vick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Independently, we created descriptive systems to characterize chimpanzee facial behavior, responding to a common need to have an objective, standardized coding system to ask questions about primate facial behaviors. Even with slightly different systems, we arrive at similar outcomes, with convergent conclusions about chimpanzee facial mobility. This convergence is a validation of the importance of the approach, and provides support for the future use of a facial action coding system for chimpanzees, ChimpFACS . Chimpanzees share many facial behaviors with those of humans. Therefore, processes and mechanisms that explain individual differences in facial activity can be compared with the use of a standardized systems such as ChimpFACS and FACS . In this chapter we describe our independent methodological approaches, comparing how we arrived at our facial coding categories. We present some Action Descriptors (ADs) from Gaspar’s initial studies, especially focusing on an ethogram of chimpanzee and bonobo facial behavior, based on studies conducted between 1997 and 2004 at three chimpanzee colonies (The Detroit Zoo; Cleveland Metroparks Zoo; and Burger’s Zoo) and two bonobo colonies (The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium; The Milwaukee County Zoo). We discuss the potential signifi cance of arising issues, the minor qualitative species differences that were found and the larger quantitative differences in particular facial behaviors observed between species, e.g., bonobos expressed more movements containing particular action units (Brow Lowerer, Lip Raiser, Lip Corner Puller) compared with chimpanzees. The substantial interindividual variation in facial behavior within each species was most striking. Considering individual differences and the impact of development, we highlight the flexibility in facial activity of chimpanzees. We discuss the meaning of facial behaviors in nonhuman primates, addressing specifically individual attributes of Social Attraction, facial expressivity, and the connection of facial behavior to emotion. We do not rule out the communicative function of facial behavior, in which case an individual’s properties of facial behavior are seen as infl uencing his or her social life, but provide strong arguments in support of the role of facial behavior in the expression of internal states.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPersonality and temperament in nonhuman primates
EditorsA. Weiss, J. King, L. Murray
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Publication series

NameDevelopments in primatology: progress and prospects


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