Library Dissertation Showcase

The role of first impressions in human and macaque interactions: facial characteristics and personality traits

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2019

Tourists often engage in potentially harmful interactions with wildlife, this is now ever increasing due to wildlife selfies. This research aimed to reduce the negative impact of human and monkey interactions in the wild by finding out what factors cause humans to approach wild Barbary macaques to take a selfie. A total of 227 participants were asked to assess 17 different images of neutral macaque faces on the perceived facial characteristics of dominance and cuteness, and to estimate how close they were willing to approach each macaque to take a selfie with them. Individual differences between participants were controlled for with risk taking and neuroticism questionnaires. For each macaque, their real-life dominance rank, sex and the facial measurements fWHR and Baby Schema were collected to act as possible predictors for the two facial characteristics dominance and cuteness. It was found that fWHR was an accurate predictor of dominance whilst Baby Schema was an accurate predictor of macaque sex and dominance. Participants could accurately perceive dominance ranks in male macaques, suggesting the possibility of a shared signaling system in humans and primates. Younger, inexperienced participants who scored high in risk taking and low in neuroticism would get closer to the macaques to take a selfie, so it is recommended that they become a target population in wildlife education schemes. Participants were more willing to approach the macaques they perceived to be cuter and less dominant to take a selfie, therefore indicating that first impressions matter in tourist wildlife interactions. This finding can be used to alter the anthropomorphised marketing of macaques as tourist attractions. By enforcing a realistic dominant image, tourists will be less likely to approach macaques in the wild.

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