Face-to-face opening phase in Japanese macaques’ social play enhances and sustains participants’ engagement in subsequent play interaction

  • Sakumi IkiEmail author
  • Toshikazu Hasegawa
Original Paper


A face-to-face “opening phase” in human interaction serves as a platform for the interactants to initiate and manage their interaction collaboratively. This study investigated whether, as is the case in humans, a face-to-face opening phase in animal interaction serves to manage a subsequent interaction and establish interactants’ engagement. We compared the dyadic play fighting of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) initiated with and without a face-to-face opening phase. Our observations showed that play sessions with a face-to-face opening phase lasted longer than did sessions without one. Furthermore, our results indicate that facing toward playmates was a sign of interactants’ engagement. In sessions with a face-to-face opening phase, both players were likely to gain an advantage over their playmates, whereas in sessions without such an opening phase, only an individual who unidirectionally faced toward another individual who looked away when play began was likely to maintain an advantage over a long period. Our findings demonstrate that a face-to-face opening phase has a socio-cognitive function to establish and sustain interactants’ social engagement during subsequent interaction not only in humans but also in Japanese macaques.


Face-to-face interaction Social cognition Communication Social play Play fighting Macaca fuscata 


Author contributions

SI and TH conceived and designed the study. SI conducted data gathering, performed statistical analyses and wrote the article.


This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation (Grant no. 30172894).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. We conducted this study in accordance with the guidelines of the Animal Experiment Committee of the University of Tokyo. This study was approved by the Animal Experiment Committee of the University of Tokyo (Permission number 28-3).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary Studies of Biosystems, School of Advanced SciencesSOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies)HayamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and SciencesThe University of TokyoMeguroJapan

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