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Animals have idea that humans' face is primary front to observe world

  1. Jul 7, 2010 #1
    I have observed that the animals and birds have a kind of idea that humans' face (and eyes) is a primary front to observe the world around them. If one has his back toward the bird, then the bird won't feel that uncomfortable. But when you stare at an animal or bird, it becomes shy or afraid and assumes it is under observation and runs away, or gets ready to defend itself. e.g. Cobra snake stares in the eyes and tries to attack its victim in the face. That's just my observation which could be ridiculously wrong. Please guide me in the right direction. Thank you.
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  3. Jul 7, 2010 #2
    I used to think animals only looked at our face because that's where sound comes from when we talk. But I think they know what our eyes are, since they are similar to other animals.
  4. Jul 7, 2010 #3
    Animals definitely can recognize different anatomical structures. For example, a lion or wolf will attack vulnerable places like the throat, cats know to lay near your hands so they can get pet, and a dog who wants your attention will move to face you.

    I think they also have a sense of empathy. For example, when I have a cat who likes to play and can bit and get pretty rough if he's attacking your hand, but if he ever comes near your head he is very gentle, he has some sense that the head and face is more sensitive than the hands.
  5. Jul 7, 2010 #4
    Hi Mu

    Thank you for lending credibility to my observation. I'm also a English learner as I believe you have already guessed. I sometimes find it difficult to interpret the meaning of some of the text.

    What are you really saying in this part, 'when I have a cat who likes to play and can bit and get pretty rough if he's attacking your hand'?
  6. Jul 7, 2010 #5
    LOL that was just some terrible typos with no proofreading. Let me correct it.

    For example, I have a cat who likes to play and can get pretty rough if he's attacking your hand, but if he ever comes near your head he is very gentle, he has some sense that the head and face is more sensitive than the hands.
  7. Jul 8, 2010 #6


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    Our brains are wired to see faces, and rapidly identify them. I'm no neurologist or biologist but I don't see any reason to assume that'd be limited to Homo Sapiens. Actually there's probably quite a bit of experimental evidence on this.

    An observational evidence that I can think of offhand is the evolutionary success of http://www.mrnussbaum.com/butterflyadaptations.htm", which would exploit this mechanism. It's pretty reasonable to assume we're keyed on whether we're being observed or not. The survival benefit of noticing quickly if a predator is eying you should be pretty obvious.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  8. Jul 8, 2010 #7
    This is a newsstory about just that:

  9. Jul 8, 2010 #8
    Humans have forward facing eyes for binocular vision.
    That's a predator trait. Dogs and cats have it. All meat-eaters have it.

    Chickens do not.

    Being able to recognise and run away from anything with forward facing eyes is an evolutionary must-have.

    A subtlety : When a Lion or other meat eater is not hunting they tend to ignore prey and don't look at them. When hunting they stare fixedly in concentration. Watch a lion hunt - or a cat - boy do they stare.
    If a lion gave you that look you'd c*** yourself!
  10. Jul 8, 2010 #9


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    Cats readily transfer their cat body-language cues to humans. If a cat is amenable to contact, it will avoid looking directly at another cat. They do the same thing to humans. If you studiously ignore a cat, it is likely to be on your lap soon. If you look directly at it, it will avoid you unless it already knows you well.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2010
  11. Jul 11, 2010 #10
    Thank you very much, everybody, for your contribution(s).

    Mu, as a learner of English I find the use of 'attacking' not appropriate here. It gives the idea as if the pet animal is trying to harm your hand in some way. I relate the use of 'attacking' to ferociousness, anger, violence and so forth. Does my humble opinion have some weight? Please let me know.
  12. Jul 11, 2010 #11
    Glad you brought it up, jackson. Recently I'd been feeding a couple squirrels who, I ascertain, are either sick or starving (as a result of the 'squirrel feeding lady' causing a population explosion). They approach and stare intently at my face. What are they looking for? I don't know. Each time I wonder if they are trying to determine if I am recognizable as the human who has provides food, or alternately, if I'm already known to have been a source of food and are trying to discover whether or not I have some to give away.
  13. Jul 11, 2010 #12


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    Dearly Missed

    Have you let a cobra attack you in the face just for the sake of making observations of animal behaviour??

    You are a worthy winner of the..Darwin Award. :smile:
  14. Jul 11, 2010 #13
    My cat when wanting food will wait patiently near my computer, only to meow when I turn around to look.
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