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Sensitivity To Information Specifying the Line of Gaze of Humans in Sparrows (Passer Domesticus)

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For species with frontal eye placement, looking at an object usually involves orienting the face and eyes toward the object. Thus, the face and eyes of the looker are usually visible from the point occupied by the object or individual being observed. Since many predators control their attacks with vision it is of interest to determine whether prey animals are responsive to information that specifies the orientation of other animals' visual systems. To determine whether wild-caught sparrows are sensitive to the looking behavior of other animals, they were exposed to the experimenter's head held at various orientations relative to the birds. Aspects of the experimenter's visage, as well as that of an artificial face, were manipulated in order to identify the features of the human face relevant to the perception of line of gaze. Sparrows responded most strongly while the face of the experimenter was oriented toward them, but were indifferent to the direction in which the eyes gazed. Tests using a model human face showed that sparrows are responsive to changes in the number of visible eyes, but not to changes in the symmetry of the nose between the eyes.

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Affiliations: 1: (Department of Psychology, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN 55105, U.S.A.


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