Our friends have a greater impact on how we develop our social skills than family, a new study has suggested.
Study by Jerome Micheletta and Dr Bridget Waller, of the University of Portsmouth's Department of Psychology, has revealed that the primates are more responsive to the actions of friends than relatives.
Micheletta, a PhD student, has been studying the gaze-following looking where a companion is looking amongst a group of macaques at Marwell Wildlife in Hampshire, the Daily Mail reported.He asserted that gaze-following is considered as a key marker of social development as it is a way of obtaining information about what is happening around them.
Micheletta said that although the macaques followed the gaze of another irrespective of their status as a friend, family member of dominant member, they responded much more quickly if it was a friend.
“Our findings reveal something about the evolution of friendship and its links with cognition and communication, which have not been studied before,” he said.
“Our study shows that friendship, more than family ties or the status of another, improves the gaze-following ability of this particular macaque species.
“It is likely the same applies to other primates, including humans.”
According to Micheletta, the research indicated that gaze-following was not used randomly.
“Macaques follow the gaze of others in order to cope with a complex and challenging social life,” he said.
“It is thought gaze-following - which occurs even when the gaze is an almost imperceptible eye movement helps individuals learn valuable things about their social and physical environment by providing clues about the location of something interesting, whether that be food, a threat or something else.”
“Our main finding is that gaze-following is strongly influenced by the degree of friendship between the macaques,” he added.
The study has been published in the journal Animal Behaviour.