Rapid Facial Mimicry (RFM), one of the possible predictors of emotional contagion, is defined as the rapid, involuntary and automatic replication of a facial expression. Up to now, RFM has been demonstrated in nonhuman animals exclusively during play. Since in bonobos, as in humans, sociosexuality is a powerful tool for assessing/strengthening inter-individual relationships, we investigated RFM in this domain. Bonobos displayed silent bared-teeth (sbt, the most common facial expression during sexual contacts) more frequently after the detection of an sbt emitted by the trigger than in the no-detection condition. This is the first demonstration of the presence of RFM during sex. The occurrence of RFM was positively affected by the sex of the partners with female homo-sexual contacts being punctuated by a higher presence of RFM. At an immediate level, RFM increased the duration of homo- and hetero-sexual contacts. This finding suggests that RFM can increase individuals’ potential fitness benefits. By prolonging their sexual contacts, females can strengthen their social relationships thus increasing the probability to obtain priority over resources (RFM indirect fitness benefits). Via longer copulations, males can increase the probability to make females pregnant (RFM direct fitness benefits). In conclusion, in bonobos the access to the partner’s face during sexual contacts (face-to-face, proximate factor) and the role of socio-sexuality in increasing the individual direct and indirect fitness (ultimate factor) could have favoured the evolution of specific sexual facial expressions and their rapid mirror replication. Our findings on bonobos expand the role of RFM well beyond the animal play domain thus opening new scenarios for future comparative studies exploring the evolution of socio-sexuality in humans.

Mirror replication of sexual facial expressions increases the probability of successful sexual contacts in bonobos

Elisabetta Palagi
Primo
;
Giada Cordoni
Ultimo
2020

Abstract

Rapid Facial Mimicry (RFM), one of the possible predictors of emotional contagion, is defined as the rapid, involuntary and automatic replication of a facial expression. Up to now, RFM has been demonstrated in nonhuman animals exclusively during play. Since in bonobos, as in humans, sociosexuality is a powerful tool for assessing/strengthening inter-individual relationships, we investigated RFM in this domain. Bonobos displayed silent bared-teeth (sbt, the most common facial expression during sexual contacts) more frequently after the detection of an sbt emitted by the trigger than in the no-detection condition. This is the first demonstration of the presence of RFM during sex. The occurrence of RFM was positively affected by the sex of the partners with female homo-sexual contacts being punctuated by a higher presence of RFM. At an immediate level, RFM increased the duration of homo- and hetero-sexual contacts. This finding suggests that RFM can increase individuals’ potential fitness benefits. By prolonging their sexual contacts, females can strengthen their social relationships thus increasing the probability to obtain priority over resources (RFM indirect fitness benefits). Via longer copulations, males can increase the probability to make females pregnant (RFM direct fitness benefits). In conclusion, in bonobos the access to the partner’s face during sexual contacts (face-to-face, proximate factor) and the role of socio-sexuality in increasing the individual direct and indirect fitness (ultimate factor) could have favoured the evolution of specific sexual facial expressions and their rapid mirror replication. Our findings on bonobos expand the role of RFM well beyond the animal play domain thus opening new scenarios for future comparative studies exploring the evolution of socio-sexuality in humans.
Palagi, Elisabetta; Bertini, Marta; Annicchiarico, Giulia; Cordoni, Giada
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/1062942
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