Social Networks and Social Complexity in Female-bonded Primates

Julia Lehmann, Katherine Andrews and Robin Dunbar

in Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264522
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734724 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Social Networks and Social Complexity in Female-bonded Primates

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Most primates are intensely social and spend a large amount of time servicing social relationships. The social brain hypothesis suggests that the evolution of the primate brain has been driven by the necessity of dealing with increased social complexity. This chapter uses social network analysis to analyse the relationship between primate group size, neocortex ratio and several social network metrics. Findings suggest that social complexity may derive from managing indirect social relationships, i.e. relationships in which a female is not directly involved, which may pose high cognitive demands on primates. The discussion notes that a large neocortex allows individuals to form intense social bonds with some group members while at the same time enabling them to manage and monitor less intense indirect relationships without frequent direct involvement with each individual of the social group.

Keywords: social brain hypothesis; primates; social network analysis; neocortex ratio; social complexity

Chapter.  8143 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychology

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