Friendship affects gaze following in a tolerant species of macaque, Macaca nigra

Jerome Micheletta, Bridget Waller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gaze following, the ability to follow the direction in which others are looking, is thought to allow individuals to acquire valuable information from their physical and social environment. Recent studies, using artificial stimuli, showed that gaze following can be modulated by social factors such as dominance or social context, suggesting the importance of integrating these factors in future cognitive studies to understand better the evolution and function of gaze following. Whether this finding still holds true when animals are tested with conspecifics is unknown. Moreover, additional social factors remain to be tested. Testing live conspecifics, we show that friendship (i.e. strong positive bonds between individuals) improved gaze-following responses in a tolerant primate: the crested macaque. Subjects did not follow the gaze of friends more often, but in dyads characterized by a high friendship index, subjects were quicker to react to gaze cues. The increased social tolerance characteristic of crested macaques’ social relationships may lessen the constraints imposed by dominance and kinship, thus allowing sociocognitive abilities to be better used among friends. Together with previous findings, our results suggest the importance of relationship quality and species’ social style in shaping primate cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-467
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • social bonds
  • macaques
  • friendship
  • dominance
  • gaze following
  • kinship
  • social cognition
  • social style
  • attention
  • Macaca nigra


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