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How chimpanzees and children perceive other species’ bodies: Comparing the expert effect

Abstract Human adults are better at recognizing upright bodies than inverted bodies. This inversion effect is also found for objects with which they have expertise, which is called the expert effect. This study aims to investigate its evolutionary and developmental aspects by testing humans’ closest relatives, chimpanzees, and preschool children. Chimpanzees show the inversion effect to chimpanzee bodies, but it is not clear how they perceive other species’ bodies. We tested seven chimpanzees in matching‐to‐sample tasks on touch screens using upright and inverted stimuli, and examined their accuracy and response time. In a previous study, they did not show the inversion effect for bipedal humans in unfamiliar postures, but here in this study they showed it to bipedal humans with familiar postures or crawling postures. This suggests the existence of the expert effect in non‐human primates, and that visual or embodied experience is needed to invoke it. It is also supported by the inversion effect they exhibit for horses who share quadrupedal postures, but which they have never seen. Additionally, for conspecifics, the inversion effect was shown regardless of the postures. We tested 33 preschool children using a similar method. They showed the inversion effect to human bodies, but not houses, suggesting the configural processing for bodies, which is found to be stable at the preschool stage. They also showed the inversion effect for chimpanzees and horses, indicating the important role of experience in shaping the ways of object processing.

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