For my PhD, supervised by Professor Dick Byrne at the University of St Andrews, I am investigating the role gaze following plays in competitive social interactions in great apes. Using an “informed forager” paradigm, I will address the important question of whether subordinates trying to deceive have “shifty eyes”: specifically, does an informed chimpanzee intent on deception move in one direction while looking to another? More generally, what attentional clues are available to reveal a chimpanzee's real intentions, and will a competitor pick them up?
Gaze-following is generally recognized as a key precursor to full Theory of Mind. Thus, learning more about how chimpanzees and other apes use and understand others' visual perspective, and use visual information to predict others' behaviour, can shed light on the continuing debate over to what degree apes possess a “Theory of Mind.”