Thursday, October 2, 2008

Know your chimpanzee

Butts, Faces Help Chimps Identify Friends

"Many animals look at parts of the body, the voice, the hands, as separate entities and don't wholly integrate them," said study co-author Frans de Waal of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Atlanta's Emory University.

"This study shows that they have whole body integration [because], at least if they know the individuals, they can match the faces and the behinds."

I'm a bit curious about that point. So your kitty cat knows your face, and knows your voice, but doesn't really think of them as belonging to a single entity? How would we know that?


Cranberry Necklace said...

Today I went to pick up my shoes at the shoe repair man's shop. I couldn't find my ticket for my shoes. Would he remember which pair of shoes I brought it? I've been a customer of his for years. But he has many customers, and many pairs of shoes. Sometimes before he has not remembered which pair of shoes he had repaired for me. This time, though, he knew. Just like the chimpanzees, familiarity helped him to associate me with another part of me - my shoes.

Cranberry Necklace said...

On the topic of associating gender with facial features:
I was once asked to read a book about faces to my (fourth) newborn. The book showed adult men's and women's faces, but it also had written words about the differences in the faces. I was astonished at the information. I had never before been conscious of the gender differences in faces. I just unconsciously categorized them. With the information explained and pictured in front of me, I learned to consciously (and much more accurately) categorize faces by sex. To this day, when I see a face that is of questionable gender, I recall the information from that book. Now I almost always get the gender right. A transvestite? No problem. He looks like a male, despite the wig and makeup. A transgender (now) female? Still looks like a male to me. A female with a beard? That's a little more difficult, because the chin and the cheekbones are the giveaways. (Males have heavier chins, and females cheeks curve inward under their cheekbones, whereas male faces are quite flat under the cheekbones.) How does this relate to the chimpanzee's recognition ability? Well, clearly the chimpanzee hasn't read that book or heard information categorizing gender-specific facial features. The chimp has to make the distinction based on generalized familiarity - which is what I used until I read that book. Language is such an effective means of collecting and conveying information!