The researchers -- graduate student Stephen Shepherd, postdoctoral fellow Robert Deaner and Assistant Professor of Neurobiology Michael Platt -- found when high-ranking monkeys were shown images of other monkeys glancing one way or the other, they more readily followed the gaze of other high-ranking monkeys.
By contrast, the animals tended to ignore glance cues from low-status monkeys -- while the low-status monkeys assiduously followed the gaze of all other monkeys.
The researchers say the discovery reveals gaze-following is more than a reflex action -- it also involves lightning-fast social perception.
Such a discovery in monkeys allows scientists to begin to understand the physiology and neural machinery of status, they said.
The findings appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of Current Biology.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]