See Inside February/March 2007

Keep Your Eyes on the Eyes

For nonhuman primates, camouflaged eye movements clearly serve a purpose.

Unlike other primates, the whites of human eyes contrast sharply with our colored irises and dark pupils. One theory suggests that our eyes evolved this way specifically to make it easier to figure out the direction of another person's gaze. If this theory is correct, you would expect humans to pay more attention to eye orientation than other primates do.

To find out, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig compared the behavior of adult chimps, gorillas, bonobos and human children.

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