Reflexive social attention in monkeys and humans.
For humans, social cues often guide the focus of attention. Although many nonhuman primates, like humans, live in large, complex social groups, the extent to which human and nonhuman primates share fundamental mechanisms of social attention remains unexplored. Here, we show that, when viewing a rhesus macaque looking in a particular direction, both rhesus macaques and humans reflexively and covertly orient their attention in the same direction. Specifically, when performing a peripheral visual target detection task, viewing a monkey with either its eyes alone or with both its head and eyes averted to one side facilitated the detection of peripheral targets when they randomly appeared on the same side. Moreover, viewing images of a monkey with averted gaze evoked small but systematic shifts in eye position in the direction of gaze in the image. The similar magnitude and temporal dynamics of response facilitation and eye deviation in monkeys and humans suggest shared neural circuitry mediating social attention.
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