Testing hypotheses about social cognition with observational data: coalitions in white-faced capuchin monkeys

Event Date:
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
ECA A101

Abstract: The social intelligence hypothesis proposes that primate large brains were shaped by the need to navigate complex social relationships in the ancestral past, including rivalries and coalitions about access to resources and shifts in dominance rank. To understand how those cognitive abilities are employed in primates' daily lives, we need observational data. Rich with social context, observational data are challenging to analyze, because usually multiple cognitive explanations are possible for an observed behavior. In order to understand primates' cognition in the context of their social lives, we ought to use methods that allow for the comparison of multiple hypotheses. In this talk, I will present analyses of observational data on wild capuchin monkeys, Cebus capucinus, collected at Lomas Barbudal Biological Reserve, Costa Rica. I will present a statistical technique that models monkeys' choices of allies during coalitionary fights while taking into account not only the attributes of the chosen individual, but also of the other individuals who were available to be solicited for help. We fitted multiple models consistent with plausible monkey decision rules and used information criteria to compare the relative plausibility of those rules to each other. The results of conditional logistic regression show that that capuchin monkeys primarily use rank when recruiting an ally, but will also use relationship quality, particularly when the potential ally has low rank. These findings provide evidence that capuchin monkeys are able to classify other group members using multiple criteria simultaneously. 


Alfredo Moreno