Body orientation and face orientation: two factors controlling apes' begging behavior from humans

J Kaminski*, J Call, M Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)


A number of animal species have evolved the cognitive ability to detect when they are being watched by other individuals. Precisely what kind of information they use to make this determination is unknown. There is particular controversy in the case of the great apes because different studies report conflicting results. In experiment 1, we presented chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos with a situation in which they had to request food from a human observer who was in one of various attentional states. She either stared at the ape, faced the ape with her eyes closed, sat with her back towards the ape, or left the room. In experiment 2, we systematically crossed the observer's body and face orientation so that the observer could have her body and/or face oriented either towards or away from the subject. Results indicated that apes produced more behaviors when they were being watched. They did this not only on the basis of whether they could see the experimenter as a whole, but they were sensitive to her body and face orientation separately. These results suggest that body and face orientation encode two different types of information. Whereas face orientation encodes the observer's perceptual access, body orientation encodes the observer's disposition to transfer food. In contrast to the results on body and face orientation, only two of the tested subjects responded to the state of the observer's eyes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-223
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • apes
  • attentional state
  • eyes
  • gaze
  • social cognition


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