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Journal Article

Context and prediction matter for the interpretation of social interactions across species


Amici,  Federica       
Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Epperlein, T., Kovacs, G., Oña, L. S., Amici, F., & Bräuer, J. (2022). Context and prediction matter for the interpretation of social interactions across species. PLoS One, 17(12): e0277783. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0277783.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-B18D-D
Predictions about others’ future actions are crucial during social interactions, in order to react optimally. Another way to assess such interactions is to define the social context of the situations explicitly and categorize them according to their affective content. Here we investigate how humans assess aggressive, playful and neutral interactions between members of three species: human children, dogs and macaques. We presented human participants with short video clips of real-life interactions of dyads of the three species and asked them either to categorize the context of the situation or to predict the outcome of the observed interaction. Participants performed above chance level in assessing social situations in humans, in dogs and in monkeys. How accurately participants predicted and categorized the situations depended both on the species and on the context. Contrary to our hypothesis, participants were not better at assessing aggressive situations than playful or neutral situations. Importantly, participants performed particularly poorly when assessing aggressive behaviour for dogs. Also, participants were not better at assessing social interactions of humans compared to those of other species. We discuss what mechanism humans use to assess social situations and to what extent this skill can also be found in other social species.