Facial expression categorization by chimpanzees using standardized stimuli

L. Parr, Bridget Waller, M. Heintz

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The ability to recognize and accurately interpret facial expressions are critical social cognition skills in primates, yet very few studies have examined how primates discriminate these social signals and which features are the most salient. Four experiments examined chimpanzee facial expression processing using a set of standardized, prototypical stimuli created using the new ChimpFACS coding system. First, chimpanzees were found to accurately discriminate between these expressions using a computerized matching-to-sample task, and recognition was impaired for all but one expression category when they were inverted. Third, a multidimensional scaling analysis examined the perceived dissimilarity among these facial expressions revealing 2 main dimensions, the degree of mouth closure and extent of lip-puckering and retraction. Finally, subjects were asked to match each facial expression category using only individual component features. For each expression category, at least 1 component movement was more salient or representative of that expression than the others. However, these were not necessarily the only movements implicated in subject’s overall pattern of errors. Therefore, similar to humans, both configuration and component movements are important during chimpanzee facial expression processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-231
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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