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Experience-independent sex differences in newborn macaques: Females are more social than males

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Abstract

Human females exhibit greater social interest and skills relative to males, appearing in infancy, suggesting biological roots; however, male and female infants may be treated differently, potentially causing or amplifying sex differences. Here, we tested whether sex differences in social motivation emerge in infant monkeys (n = 48) reared in a controlled postnatal environment. Compared to males, females at 2-3 weeks looked more at conspecifics' faces (d = 0.65), especially the eyes (d = 1.09), and at 4-5 weeks exhibited more affiliative behaviors (d = 0.64), including gesturing, looking, and proximity to familiar and unfamiliar human caretakers. In sum, converging evidence from humans and monkeys suggests that female infants are more social than males in the first weeks of life, and that such differences may arise independent of postnatal experience. Individual differences in social interest have wide-ranging developmental consequences, impacting infants'social interaction quality and opportunities for learning. Understanding the evolution of sex differences and their developmental emergence is necessary to best support infants with varying levels of sociality.

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Simpson, E. A., Nicolini, Y., Shetler, M., Suomi, S. J., Ferrari, P. F., & Paukner, A. (2016). Experience-independent sex differences in newborn macaques: Females are more social than males. Scientific Reports, 6. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep19669

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