The eyes are often inspected first and for longer period during face exploration. To examine whether this saliency of the eye region at the early stage of face inspection is attributed to its local structure properties or to the knowledge of its essence in facial communication, in this study we investigated the pattern of eye movements produced by rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) as they free viewed images of monkey faces. Eye positions were recorded accurately using implanted eye coils, while images of original faces, faces with scrambled eyes, and scrambled faces except for the eyes were presented on a computer screen. The eye region in the scrambled faces attracted the same proportion of viewing time and fixations as it did in the original faces, even the scrambled eyes attracted substantial proportion of viewing time and fixations. Furthermore, the monkeys often made the first saccade towards to the location of the eyes regardless of image content. Our results suggest that the initial fixation placement in faces is driven predominantly by "top-down" or internal factors, such as the prior knowledge of the location of "eyes" within the context of a face.
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