Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Monkeys Know Their Place on the Social Ladder

I thought that you all might find this interesting.

It's from a short piece, a correspondance article in Current Biology, but it provides some interesting insight into non-human primate social behavior. I don't know if it demonstrates snobbery in macaque social cirlces, but it does open the doors for some lively discussion.

Here's an abstract view from the article:
Social status gates social attention in monkeys
Stephen V. Shepherd, Robert O. Deaner and Michael L. Platt (all out of Duke)

Humans rapidly shift attention in the direction other individuals are looking, following gaze in a manner suggestive of an obligatory social reflex. Monkeys' attention also follows gaze, and the similar magnitude and time-course of gaze-following in rhesus macaques and humans is indicative of shared neural mechanisms. Here we show that low-status male rhesus macaques reflexively follow the gaze of all familiar rhesus macaques, but high-status macaques selectively follow the gaze only of other high-status monkeys. These results suggest that gaze-following in monkeys involves reflexive and voluntary components, and that the strength of these mechanisms varies according to social status.


At 8:53 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

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At 8:54 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

Very cool. Makes so much sense too. I wouldn't call it snobbery, because I think it's more general than that--"respect," I suppose. When you have come to respect someone's taste and judgment, you want to attend to that to which he or she attends. "Respect" doesn't mean it's something enlightened or noble, but I think it's more general or at the very least deserves a less dismissive term than snobbery. Don't listen to me, though, I'm nobody.


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