January 11, 2018 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Well, can you, punk?

The Great Ape Dictionary needs your help! In our experiment, hosted by, you will see a photo of a chimpanzee and four possible matches. Can you tell who is related to who? Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters – they’re all there! Humans can recognise biological relatives through facial features; we want to explore how kin-based facial recognition evolved in humans and other primates.

posted by Johnny Wallflower (97 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
h/t ChuraChura
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:47 PM on January 11

posted by straight at 3:54 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]

I got 4/15, which is basically chance. I thought I was doing a pretty good job looking at brow ridges, coloration, nose and ear shape... Turns out I was just guessing!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:55 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]

I got 2/15, worse than guessing! I thought I noticed similar traits but I guess not. I wonder how this would compare for humans.
posted by mai at 3:56 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

7/15 which I didn't think was great, but maybe is not too shabby!

I wish they showed you which ones you got wrong. Sometimes it came down to two choices with similar characteristics. I would like to know whether or not I was close on the ones I missed. (I'd also like to know which ones I got right, because my confidence was not very high for any of the sets.)
posted by oddman at 3:59 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]

I got 6/15, so slightly better than chance. I was mostly looking at brow ridges, noses, and shapes of face in general. Unfortunately, it did not help that the angle and quality of the comparison photos was not consistent.
posted by tavella at 4:01 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]

I got three. Less than halfway through I became convinced I was seeing the same faces over and over again. There's the one with a green tinge again!
posted by Occula at 4:04 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

I got 5. I feel gutted.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:14 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]

I got 4/15, I'll never be a monkey's uncle.
posted by peeedro at 4:14 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

I got 11/15. I think I’ve discovered a new talent.
posted by shrabster at 4:18 PM on January 11 [40 favorites]

Seriously? They say all of that stuff about privacy and then embed Twitter javascript?

6/15... what I really want is a follow-up test with humans so I can determine whether I'm chimpazee-racist or if I do just as poorly.
posted by XMLicious at 4:19 PM on January 11 [9 favorites]

I got 5/15. I started wondering halfway through if it was one of those things where they tell you the test is about one thing when it's really another.

Also when they ask what year you were born in but it doesn't go past 87 ... that kinda stung.
posted by bunderful at 4:22 PM on January 11 [40 favorites]

5/15. I wish the test told you whether the answers you rated as more "confident" were more likely to be correct.
posted by Rinku at 4:25 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

4/15. It's a miracle I can find my kids in the crowd after school.
posted by davejay at 4:30 PM on January 11 [14 favorites]

I got 5/15. I started wondering halfway through if it was one of those things where they tell you the test is about one thing when it's really another.

I'm hoping it's a proof that lineups are not a solid identification technique; in every lineup one of those chimps could be not just related to but the identically same chimp, or completely unrelated.
posted by pwnguin at 4:32 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

5/15 here as well. I listed pretty much all of them as 30% confidence.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:34 PM on January 11

5/15, but now I'm curious to do a similar test but with people, because TBH I'm not sure I'd do much better.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 4:37 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

I got 9/15, but I had my two kids helping me, and they are part chimpanzee themselves, so...
posted by fancyoats at 4:39 PM on January 11 [10 favorites]

family monkey family monkey lookin kind of same family monkey
posted by poffin boffin at 4:40 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

Well, I'm thoroughly embarrassed, because I only got 5/15. Of course, I don't identify my monkeys by their face, I rely on their nipples and tails, so I just was missing the useful bits for this test.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:41 PM on January 11 [26 favorites]

I got 2/15 and I was really trying.
posted by tehgubner at 4:43 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

metafilter: i rely on their nipples
posted by poffin boffin at 4:47 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]

wow i got 10/15 so i'm going to just go ahead and put MONKEYFINDER ROYAL on my business cards
posted by poffin boffin at 4:53 PM on January 11 [20 favorites]

I got 3/15 and I was really trying too.
posted by Transl3y at 4:57 PM on January 11

5/15 I couldn't decide whether the color palette / film quality or the comparison of head shape in the crop was false information. I was trying to go by nose shape.
posted by LucretiusJones at 5:05 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

4/15 Another career path closed to me. :( Sorry, my chimp cousins.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 5:11 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

7/15, and feeling reasonably chuffed about my monkeyspotting skills.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:13 PM on January 11

3/15 :(

I was so scoring them so confidently too. The researchers will probably be laughing at my non-human primate identification hubris.
posted by doktorj at 5:13 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

posted by GenjiandProust at 5:22 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]

I suspect this is really secretly about that confidence slider.

“Oh-ho-ho! Look at these crazy people who think they can score better than chance at something they know nothing about!”
posted by Sys Rq at 5:26 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

4/15, so basically rolling dice
posted by sjswitzer at 5:30 PM on January 11

3/15. I left the confidence slider at 50% for most of them, curious about whether the ones I got right were the ones I felt more confident about or not...
posted by msbubbaclees at 5:33 PM on January 11

5/15, which is probably just chance + error. It would have been nice to see the results summarized at the end. I might've gone around again after learning what I got right & wrong.
posted by achrise at 5:41 PM on January 11

2/15, but I just picked based on which of the four I thought was most likely to star in a buddy movie with the reference ape. So apparently that was not a winning strategy.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:42 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]

Well, I'm thoroughly embarrassed, because I only got 5/15.

I got 6/15 so I'll just take your PhD, thanks.
posted by AFABulous at 5:42 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]

8/15 - respectable? I think it was the similarity of expressions that got me to match half of them. I also noticed there were a few photos that made me think I'd enjoy being friends with the chimpanzee shown. They seemed kind and like they'd be fun to talk with and, I don't know, go see a movie and grab a beer or banana smoothie afterward.
posted by but no cigar at 5:51 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]

8/15! Never been so happy with such a relatively low score :)
posted by dhruva at 6:00 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

I'm terrible at the faces, but I think these guys deserve a real pat on the back for the gesture/body language survey running on the same site.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:26 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

I was also 5/15 and I tried really hard. I, too, wish they'd showed what the answers were at the end mostly because while I compared various factors, it was hard to know what I was really trying to look for. (The varying quality of the photos seemed like it didn't help.)

I would say my confidence started slipping toward the end, though.

It was fun to try, in any case.
posted by darksong at 7:00 PM on January 11

Four. I too wanted a few as companions, remembering that they are awful companions. Now though, they can all pound bananas. Gibbons still get my vote. Few things cheerier than a morning gibbon.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 7:02 PM on January 11

5, I wish they pictures were all taken from the same angle, but I guess it's hard to get them to pose
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:05 PM on January 11

Pretty sure Grape Ape mostly said 'Grape Ape, Grape Ape' - that wouldn't make for that big a dictionary.

Oh wait... Great ape... not Grape ape...
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:09 PM on January 11

2/15. Thank god I'm a botanist.
posted by pemberkins at 7:10 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]

10/20 on the gestures though
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:16 PM on January 11

I considered each picture carefully, confidence ratings between 50 and 65 - score 5/15.

Taking some consolation in the knowledge that in a similar situation, no one looking at a picture of my adorable 6'4", red-headed son would pick me out of a line-up of potential mothers.
posted by she's not there at 7:21 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]

Also when they ask what year you were born in but it doesn't go past 87 ... that kinda stung.

Right?? I'm in a bit of a crisis right now because of that..

Research peeps,, talk me back down with logic please!! Is there a reason this study differentiates the year/age/demographic for anyone under, but not over, 30??

Need to know before proceeding to this very important monkey study.
posted by wats at 7:35 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]

4/15. Ugh. I'm such a failure at a task not only did I never care about being good at before, but I didn't even know existed until 10 minutes ago.
posted by greermahoney at 7:50 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

I only got 6/15. There were a few I felt confident on, and a few I wasn't at all. I'm really frustrated we don't get to find out which ones are siblings, or whether our confidence in our answers is reflected in our success.
posted by headspace at 7:53 PM on January 11

7/15, those photos were not ideal. I would have liked to see my confidence reported on.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:56 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

I got 13/20 for the gestures
posted by fancyoats at 8:03 PM on January 11

5/15, and there were DEFINITELY some repeats in the multiple choice answers, if not in the main images of the questions, because I picked the same one with the funny ear as family for two different chimps. I wonder what information they'll glean from the confidence slider!
posted by solotoro at 8:13 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

Returning to say, I got 14/20 on gestures. This makes me feel better after doing so poorly on sibling matching. I have no idea why; chances are, the fate of the world will never be decided on my ability to identify related chimps.*

*We hope.
posted by headspace at 8:14 PM on January 11

Ah, but how many people noticed the basketball player walking through the background?
posted by Mchelly at 8:37 PM on January 11 [15 favorites]

I think this has a few design problems. The images varied widely in quality and even in focus and exposure. And I'm not just saying that because I only got 3/15. It's like asking if you can find my dad in a picture taken from the security camera at my cousin's wedding, and connect him to my sister's yearbook photo and my brother's mugshot.
posted by Stanczyk at 8:39 PM on January 11 [9 favorites]

I ditched after I was lumped into the "born before 1987" cohort.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:59 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]

MetaFilter: missing the useful bits
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:11 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

What a ride. It wasn't really displaying properly on my phone—could only see the bottom half of the top image—so I'm like, ah fuck that, I'll easily identify these chimps on muzzle alone! Then I finished and the score was cut off too, but I had already pressed "next" before I realized this, and there was no going back. So I'm just going to assume 15/15 and move on.
posted by Lorin at 9:16 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

Gorilla channel better.
posted by mono blanco at 9:16 PM on January 11

2/15 I’m kind of gutted :(
posted by mazola at 9:18 PM on January 11


There were some where I went all CSI, carefully inspections facial features for minute differences... And there were others where some part of my brain just went "that one. It's that one. No, seriously, I promise you, that one." I'd really like to know how I did on those, whether my brain is trustworthy or not.
posted by meese at 9:42 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]

13/20 on the gestures one. So I'll be able to find my kids if they wave at me. Yay!
posted by davejay at 9:59 PM on January 11

Why 1987?

Uh, since I work at a research university, I happen to know that most volunteers for any study are your very own undergraduate and graduate students, recruited from your very own classes or those of your friends.

I'm assuming that this has something to do with wanting to know whether you might be a student? Maybe there's a secondary analysis going on with their own students, some of whom may have worked with primates?

But what do I know, I only got 6/15.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:07 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]

2/15... I'm surprised - not at my poor performance at a task I know literally nothing about, but at my disappointment over my poor performance. I guess I was subconsciously hoping to be some sort of chimpanzee-identifying savant :(
posted by btfreek at 12:48 AM on January 12 [9 favorites]

7/15. I do not need to change my username.
posted by BinaryApe at 1:07 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]

3/15. I can't shake the feeling those monkeys outsmarted me.
posted by waving at 1:19 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Unfortunate. I wasn't shown any monkeys at all
posted by BinaryApe at 1:32 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]

I hate every ape I see...
posted by thelonius at 2:24 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

6/15 - I tried to compare ears, noses, mouths, hairlines. But not very successfully.

And I also wondered why 1987. Am I so old that I might have an unfair advantage from spending more time up in the branches of our family tree?
posted by pracowity at 3:31 AM on January 12

I also am unhappy about the 1987 cut off.

I got 5/15 and I tried really hard. Maybe other surveys should mix ape matching in, because I feel pretty sure this one has the highest actual engagement rate ever.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:47 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]

(if it's any consolation to people, the only reason they know these chimpanzees are related is because of genetic testing and they've been working at Budongo for long enough that they've followed many animals since birth.)
posted by ChuraChura at 4:10 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]

I hit 7/15. I think I did better when I stopped trying
posted by wotsac at 6:19 AM on January 12

Why 1987?

Maybe they want to group everyone together who grew up reading about Flo's family in National Geographic.
posted by JanetLand at 6:34 AM on January 12

It's like asking if you can find my dad in a picture taken from the security camera at my cousin's wedding, and connect him to my sister's yearbook photo and my brother's mugshot.

That sounds like it would be a fun wedding party, though.

I got 2/15 on the faces, so actively worse than just guessing. 10/15 on the gestures; some I thought were obvious and others totally inscrutable, but for all I know I got the inscrutable ones correct.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:36 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

4/15. Which, considering I'm not good at recognizing people all that well, is not shocking. I suspect at a certain point I just started looking for similar photos instead of similar faces.
posted by PussKillian at 6:41 AM on January 12

I got 7/15, and I stopped trying particularly hard around 5 when I realized I wasn't going to be able to use brow shape, eye color etc as identifiers with any reasonable degree of accuracy.

Also, speaking of accuracy, my confidence numbers went something like 45, 35, 10, 10, 10, 50, 50, 50, 50 etc -- starting high, dropping precipitously, and then giving up and leaving as-is when it became clear that this was an impossible task. In retrospect that's a terrible way to treat data so sorry, survey-makers, for mucking up your dataset. Hopefully they're treating the confidence numbers with a grain of salt or whatever.
posted by alleycat01 at 6:47 AM on January 12

4/15. I'm clearly looking at the wrong parts of the face. Ohhh, I need to do it again. I think now that I should have focused less on nose/mouth/brow shape and more on ears and freckles and skin/fur colour combinations.
I also noticed I was very biased towards photos of chimps that looked in the same direction as the one at the top, or that had the same facial expression.

I also didn't like the 1987 cutoff, but maybe they're mainly interested in how under-30s perform because they know something we don't about age and facial recognition.
posted by easternblot at 6:51 AM on January 12

10/15 on the gestures;

10/20, I mean. Not a terrible percentage, but not exactly fluent in Chimpanese either.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:58 AM on January 12

This is late in the thread, but still : please from your friendly local (unconnected to this project) researcher who studies humans over the internet, please don't take the study if you've already been in here reading about how to recognize apes! Or if you skimmed down here for some reason, go take the quiz now before reading the thread.

Unless they give you a way to say that your data shouldn't be used (this is a good practice, mostly people want to tell you if they were e.g. distracted and not mess up your science! but I haven't checked for this, since I'm in this thread reading about monkey faces), having a bunch of your participants chatting about how to solve the task beforehand can heck up your analyses pretty bad.

(I have no idea if these particular researchers care , but 'do the study first, talk about it after' is a good general rule of thumb if you feel like doing a mitzvah for online social scientists)
posted by heyforfour at 7:18 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

3/15. Don't know that this says as much about great apes as it does about me; I already knew I completely suck at the whole face recognition thing.
posted by flabdablet at 7:36 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

4/15 — nice to know it is not an unusual score. And I too would really like to see which ones I got right.
Another thing is: I am not an ape, but I don't look much like my siblings and only two out of the six of us look somewhat like each other, though I suspect it is their similar style choices. We all look different enough that people comment on it. I do look a lot like our parents, it's them that don't. Genetics are complicated.
posted by mumimor at 9:11 AM on January 12

You are an ape!
posted by ChuraChura at 9:24 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]

MetaFilter: ChuraChura is an ape
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:37 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

5/15. Thought it sucked until I saw the thread.
posted by Splunge at 9:42 AM on January 12

Sorry, yes of course I'm an ape, what was I thinking?
posted by mumimor at 9:49 AM on January 12

4/15, basically at chance. I'm not shocked.

As I recall, chimpanzees have a huge amount more variation in their genome than humans, and this seems to be reflected in the variation in genes which impact on facial feature. So two related chimps are less likely to look very similar to each other than two related humans. Although for chimps themselves, it probably makes individual identification easier, and they can probably tell relatedness relatively easily.

Processing of faces is really interesting. It's thought to be an evolutionarily ancient system, predating primates (we share the same neurobiological substrate for face processing with sheep, for example, though we can't rule out that there is a preadaptation which permitted convergent evolution). Part of the temporal lobe decomposes the image of a face into a smaller number of dimensions of variation, called "face space." These dimensions consist of things like roundness vs. ovalness, square chin vs. pointy chin, distance between the eyes, etc. Each of us seems to carry a template around in our heads of what a "default face" looks like, and actual faces we see are encoded as differences from the default face. As well as the default face, we also carry a representation of the primary ways that faces deviate from the default face (so-called "eigenfaces"). The default face together with the eigenfaces describe the basis of face space [1], and everyone's personal face space is unique. One possible reason why people who grow up in ethnically homogeneous societies have more trouble discriminating the faces of people from outside their society may be because they lack sufficient experience with the relevant eigenfaces for discriminating faces from other populations.

Identifying relatedness by faces is probably largely a matter of identifying faces that are near each other in a face space that is properly trained to reflect the true underlying genetic variation that explains facial features. For humans to do this for chimps is pretty tricky, as most of our results on this test confirm. The "average" chimp face is probably nowhere near the default face for most of us, and our eigenfaces are poorly equipped to represent the true variability in chimpanzee faces. So we're working with relatively little variation in the neural representation of these faces to begin with, so identifying relatedness is even harder.

I would wager that chimps are better at doing this with humans than we are with chimps. Because of the richer genetic variation in their background, their face space probably has a richer set of eigenfaces for representing differences between human faces. But I could be wrong; maybe the differences between our faces are so slight compared to the rich variation they enjoy that for chimps, all humans mostly look alike. Someone's probably studied this.

[1]. For the mathematically inclined, face space is basically a vector space, the default face is its zero element, and eigenfaces are bases for the space. Eigenfaces should reflect the statistical variation in faces that a person sees, and so for a well-trained viewer of faces, eigenfaces should be approximately orthonormal.
posted by biogeo at 10:30 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]

Why 1987?

Never trust anyone over thirty.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:45 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]

4/15. I tried to go by nose shape and eye shape so ... don't do that.
posted by kimberussell at 10:50 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]

posted by cron at 10:58 AM on January 12

8/15 not quite the wizard. But, I really liked them after looking at length.
posted by Oyéah at 12:03 PM on January 12

2/15.... I'm a bad monkey.
posted by Grither at 12:03 PM on January 12

8/20 on the gestures, so I guess if I had to go live with apes I'd be that weirdo with no manners.
posted by AFABulous at 12:43 PM on January 12

Except for the hyperintelligent AIs masquerading as apes, we're all apes down here.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:16 PM on January 12

The images varied widely in quality and even in focus and exposure

You try making the chimps sit still for glamour shots!
posted by Panjandrum at 1:17 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

I somehow managed to get 1/15. I think I deserve a prize for doing way worse than random chance hah. I tried really hard too, comparing the brows and noses and colors and such.
posted by FireFountain at 6:09 PM on January 12

I got a group of coworkers together today and we did the quiz together. Collectively we have something like 50-60 years of experience working with nonhuman primates. I thought we might get a "wisdom of crowds" sort of effect.

Our group score was 4/15.
posted by biogeo at 8:00 PM on January 12 [8 favorites]

6/15. I thought being an Aspie would lessen my score results of facial recognition, but apparently I can tell something about these monkeys though.
posted by RoboticForest at 4:15 AM on January 17

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