Faces presented upside-down are harder to recognize than presented right-side up, an effect known as the face inversion effect. With inversion the perceptual processing of the spatial relationship among facial parts is disrupted. Previous literature indicates a face inversion effect in chimpanzees toward familiar and conspecific faces. Although these results are not inconsistent with findings from humans they have some controversy in their methodology. Here, we employed a delayed matching-to-sample task to test captive chimpanzees on discriminating chimpanzee and human faces. Their performances were deteriorated by inversion. More importantly, the discrimination deterioration was systematically different between the two age groups of chimpanzee participants, i.e. young chimpanzees showed a stronger inversion effect for chimpanzee than for human faces, while old chimpanzees showed a stronger inversion effect for human than for chimpanzee faces. We conclude that the face inversion effect in chimpanzees is modulated by the level of expertise of face processing.
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