Visual expertise does not predict the composite effect across species: a comparison between spider (Ateles geoffroyi) and rhesus (Macaca mulatta) monkeys

Jessica Taubert, Lisa A. Parr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Humans are subject to the composite illusion: two identical top halves of a face are perceived as “different” when they are presented with different bottom halves. This observation suggests that when building a mental representation of a face, the underlying system perceives the whole face, and has difficulty decomposing facial features. We adapted a behavioural task that measures the composite illusion to examine the perception of faces in two nonhuman species. Specifically we had spider (Ateles geoffroyi) and rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) perform a two-forced choice, match-to-sample task where only the top half of sample was relevant to the task. The results of Experiment 1 show that spider monkeys (N = 2) process the faces of familiar species (conspecifics and humans, but not chimpanzees, sheep, or sticks), holistically. The second experiment tested rhesus monkeys (N = 7) with the faces of humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, sheep, and sticks. Contrary to prediction, there was no evidence of a composite effect in the human (or familiar primate) condition. Instead, we present evidence of a composite illusion in the chimpanzee condition (an unfamiliar primate). Together, these experiments show that visual expertise does not predict the composite effect across the primate order.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-195
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Cognition
Volume71
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords

  • Comparative psychology
  • Face perception
  • Holistic processing

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