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The power of social structure: how we became an intelligent lineage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 July 2010

Marina Resendes de Sousa António*
Affiliation:
Washington State University, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, PO Box 642812, PullmanWA99164-2812, USA
Dirk Schulze-Makuch
Affiliation:
Washington State University, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, PO Box 642812, PullmanWA99164-2812, USA

Abstract

New findings pertinent to the human lineage origin (Ardipithecus ramidus) prompt a new analysis of the extrapolation of the social behavior of our closest relatives, the great apes, into human ‘natural social behavior’. With the new findings it becomes clear that human ancestors had very divergent social arrangements from the ones we observe today in our closest genetic relatives.

The social structure of chimpanzees and gorillas is characterized by male competition. Aggression and the instigation of fear are common place. The morphology of A. ramidus points in the direction of a social system characterized by female-choice instead of male–male competition. This system tends to be characterized by reduced aggression levels, leading to more stable arrangements. It is postulated here that the social stability with accompanying group cohesion propitiated by this setting is favorable to the investment in more complex behaviors, the development of innovative approaches to solve familiar problems, an increase in exploratory behavior, and eventually higher intelligence and the use of sophisticated tools and technology.

The concentration of research efforts into the study of social animals with similar social systems (e.g., New World social monkeys (Callitrichidae), social canids (Canidae) and social rodents (Rodentia)) are likely to provide new insights into the understanding of what factors determined our evolution into an intelligent species capable of advanced technology.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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