Evolution of the Social Brain

  title={Evolution of the Social Brain},
  author={Robin I. M. Dunbar},
  pages={1160 - 1161}
Why are monkeys, apes and humans such social animals and how did we get that way? As [Dunbar][1] describes in his Perspective, such questions have puzzled primatologists for decades. Two new studies in baboons provide some answers by demonstrating that the tighter the social bonds of female baboons the greater is their reproductive fitness ([ Silk et al .][2]), and that female baboons are able to simultaneously assess the rank and kinship of other baboon females ([ Bergman et al ][3].). [1… 

Brain and Behaviour in Primate Evolution

The standard form of the social brain hypothesis in primates is a quantitative relationship between social group size and brain size, but comparative analyses for other mammal and bird taxa reveal that it takes a purely qualitative form.

Sociality, Evolution and Cognition

Cognitive adaptations of social bonding in birds

It is argued that cognition may play an important role in the maintenance of long-term relationships, something the authors name as ‘relationship intelligence’.

The evolution of the social brain: anthropoid primates contrast with other vertebrates

It is suggested that, among vertebrates in general, pairbonding represents a qualitative shift from loose aggregations of individuals to complex negotiated relationships, and that these bonded relationships have been generalized to all social partners in only a few taxa (such as anthropoid primates).

Neocortex size predicts deception rate in primates

  • R. ByrneN. Corp
  • Biology, Psychology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 2004
It is shown that the use of deception within the primates is well predicted by the neocortical volume, when observer effort is controlled for; by contrast, neither the size of the rest of the brain nor the group size exert significant effects.

The Social Brain and Its Implications

The human social world is (a little) bigger than that of other primates only because the authors have a (proportionately) larger brain, but it is still a very small-scale world—there are nonetheless some aspects of the human condition that are unique.


Evidence that changes in sociality and relative brain size are closely correlated over evolutionary time for all three mammalian orders suggests a process of coevolution and provides support for the social brain theory.

Brains, brawn and sociality: a hyaena's tale

Relative brain size and the distribution of innovation and social learning across the nonhuman primates

This chapter explores cognitive, ecological, and life-history variables that may accompany a propensity for social learning, specifically, the roles of brain size and social group size and the relationship between asocial and social learning.



Social cognition of monkeys and apes

This paper reviews what is known about the social cognition of monkeys and great apes. The literature reviewed is divided into three main content areas: (1) social interaction, including knowledge of

What it Means to be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and their Genes

The overwhelming similarity of human and ape genes is one of the best-known facts of modern genetic science. But what does this similarity mean? Does it, as many have suggested, have profound

Lucy's Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution

In a book that takes us from the first cell to global society, Jolly shows that to learn where the authors came from and where they go next, they need to understand how sex and intelligence, cooperation and love, emerged from the harsh darwinian struggle in the past, and how these natural powers may continue to evolve in the future.

Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brain

A machine for language? Certainly, say the neurophysiologists, busy studying the language specializations of the human brain and trying to identify their evolutionary antecedents. Linguists such as

Neocortex size and social network size in primates

It is shown that, in respect of neocortex size, there are as many as four statistically distinct grades within the primates (including humans), and analysis of the patterns of grooming among males and females suggested that large primate social groups often consist of a set of smaller female subgroups that are linked by individual males.

A theory of human life history evolution: Diet, intelligence, and longevity

A theory is proposed that unites and organizes observations and generates many theoretical and empirical predictions that can be tested in future research by comparative biologists, archeologists, paleontologists, biological anthropologists, demographers, geneticists, and cultural anthropologists.

Machiavellian intelligence : social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans

Editorial - the Machiavellian intelligence hypotheses. The origins of the idea what primates know about social relationships social complexity - the effect of a third party are primates mind-readers?

Cultures in chimpanzees

It is found that 39 different behaviour patterns, including tool usage, grooming and courtship behaviours, are customary or habitual in some communities but are absent in others where ecological explanations have been discounted.

The Descent of Mind: Psychological Perspectives on Hominid Evolution

This chapter discusses the origins of Symbolically-Mediated Language and its Implications for Psychological Science, and the role of Gesture and Mimetic Representation in Making Language the Province of Speech.


  • C. Heyes
  • Psychology, Biology
    Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
  • 1994
It has been proposed that social learning phenomena be subsumed within the categorization scheme currently used by investigators of asocial learning, and three alignments have been proposed, intended to be a set of hypotheses, rather than conclusions, about the mechanisms of social learning.