Nav: Home

Cute monkeys perceived as safer, but in reality dominant animals get closer to humans

March 09, 2020

People say they are more willing to approach cute-looking monkeys in the wild, but in reality end up getting closer to dominant monkeys they believe could pose more risk, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Lincoln, UK, showed a sample of people photos of wild Barbary macaques - a primate which commonly mingles with tourists in Gibraltar and North Africa - and asked them to assess their faces according to a variety of traits including dominance, trustworthiness, cuteness and socialness.

The study participants were also asked how close they would be willing to get to the monkey to feed it or take a photo.

Results showed that people said they were more willing to approach, feed or take photos with macaques that they perceived to be trustworthy, subordinate, cute, social, young, or female. This suggests that they perceive these social traits as safer to approach.

Dominant primates were perceived to pose higher threat than subordinate primates and therefore were deemed to be less approachable. But despite their stated preferences, in field observations people ended up getting closer to more dominant macaques.

Dr. Laëtitia Maréchal, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Lincoln, said: "Despite forming these first impressions based on faces, in reality the interactions we observe don't follow what people say. When people feed wildlife they are more likely to end up close to dominant animals; the ones people claimed to be less willing to approach due to being perceived as less safe.

"It is important to study wildlife interactions to improve the safety and welfare of both humans and the animals involved. This is an important step towards understanding how to better communicate with other species. This has great positive implications for human safety and animal welfare."

The research, published in the academic journal Scientific Reports, featured observations of real-life human and macaque interactions taken at a popular tourist site in Morocco, as well as the image-based tests.
-end-


University of Lincoln

Related Research Articles:

More Research News and Research Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.