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Animal ThinkingContemporary Issues in Comparative Cognition$
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Randolf Menzel and Julia Fischer

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016636

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016636.001.0001

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How Intelligent Is Machiavellian Behavior?

How Intelligent Is Machiavellian Behavior?

(p.209) 14 How Intelligent Is Machiavellian Behavior?
Animal Thinking

Redouan Bshary

Felice Di Lascio

Ana Pinto

Erica van de Waal

The MIT Press

The hypothesis that the complexity of social life selects for large brains is currently very prominent. This functional hypothesis has been tested mainly through experiments which aim to identify the cognitive processes or mechanisms that may underlie social behavior. Such research is inherently challenging because it is extremely difficult to design experiments that conclusively allow the exclusion of simple cognitive processes as an explanation for successful behavior. This chapter argues that cognitive scientists should not focus on processes alone but rather quantitatively test what animals can do with their brain: how fast, how precise, how much they can learn. Many differences between species concerning cognitive tasks in the social domain are quantitative in nature (e.g., the number of group members, past behavior that an individual has to recognize, the number of opportunities for social learning or cooperation that arise per time unit, etc.). Tests on how such quantitative differences between species translate into quantitative cognitive performances should be conducted in many species to provide a comparative approach, where predictions about relative performance can be made based on detailed knowledge of each study species’ ecology. Comparative approaches are methodologically challenging but can be tackled through large-scale cooperation.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, intelligence, measuring cognition, Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis, social brain hypothesis, social cognition, cooperation, deception

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