In chimps, as in humans, faces are personality billboards

Washington, Jan 24 (ANI): People can read a chimpanzee's face and tell if the animal is dominant and physically active, according to a new study.

A research team, led by psychologist Robert Ward of Bangor University, Wales, says that people can usually tell whether or not a chimp acts dominantly and is physically active simply by looking at a picture of the ape's expressionless mug.

"The fact that chimpanzee facial signals can be read by humans suggests that our ability to read others' faces accurately is not solely acquired through culture, but is part of an evolved system," Discovery News quoted Ward as saying.

Ward's group conducted four experiments with a total of 139 college students. Volunteers viewed pairs of mug shots showing chimps previously identified in behavioral observations as high or low in dominance. Each photographed chimp looked straight ahead or at a slight angle, with no teeth showing and no strong shadowing over the eyes that might impart a menacing look.

Participants distinguished dominant from nondominant chimps more often than would have been expected by chance. Average accuracy rates ranged from about 60 percent to 70 percent, with higher scores for faces of male chimps than for female chimps.

The students accurately distinguished mug shots of extroverted women from those of introverted women about three-quarters of the time. Pairs of pictures came from women who reported many similar personality traits on a questionnaire, except for contrasting levels of extroversion.

Core facial characteristics of dominant chimps and extroverted people remain poorly understood, Ward says.

The study has been published online Jan. 14 in Evolution and Human Behavior. (ANI)

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