Visual preferences for sex and status in female rhesus macaques.
Most primates are both highly visual and highly social. These qualities predict that visual cues to social variables, such as identity, sex, social status, and reproductive quality, would be intrinsically valuable and systematically attract attention. Supporting this idea, thirsty male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) will forego fluid reward to view images of the faces of high-ranking males and the sexual skin of females. Whether female rhesus macaques, who experience dramatically different social pressures and reproductive costs than male macaques, also systematically and spontaneously value visual cues to social information remains untested experimentally. We probed the preferences of female rhesus macaques, given the opportunity to display an image from a known class of social stimuli or touch a second target to display a blank screen. We found that females preferred faces of high-status males and also images of the perinea of both males and females, but were not motivated to display images of subordinate males or control stimuli. These findings endorse the view that both male and female rhesus macaques-and presumably other highly social primates-seek information about other individuals in a way that matches the adaptive value of that information for guiding social behavior.
Watson, KK; Ghodasra, JH; Furlong, MA; Platt, ML
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