Evolution of the Human Eye as a Device for Communication

  • Hiromi Kobayashi
  • Shiro Kohshima


Recognizing the gaze-directions of others is one of the important cognitive bases for communication in humans (Gibson and Pick 1963; Kendon 1967). To clarify the biological basis of this ability, especially in relation to the evolution of social intelligence, researchers have experimentally examined the cognitive ability to detect the gaze direction of others in nonhuman primates (Gomez 1991; Itakura and Anderson 1996; Tomasello et al. 1998). However, little attention has been given to the external morphology of the eye although this ability of humans might be supported by a unique morphology of the human eye. For example, in humans, the widely exposed white sclera (the white of the eye) surrounding the darker colored iris makes it easy for others to discern the gaze direction and has been said to be a characteristic of humans not found in other primate species (Morris 1985). However, this has not been examined in detail, partly because of the difficulty in measuring the soft parts of living animals.


Nonhuman Primate Face Color Iris Color Olive Baboon Vertical Scanning 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hiromi Kobayashi
    • 1
  • Shiro Kohshima
    • 1
  1. 1.Basic Biology, Faculty of Bioscience and BiotechnologyTokyo Institute of TechnologyTokyoJapan

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