Monkeys, just as humans possess Machiavellian Intelligence

November 14th, 2007 - 2:48 am ICT by admin  
The study conducted by Dario Maestripieri, an expert on primate behaviour and an Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago found that when it comes to behaving socially, people sometimes act like rhesus macaques, a type of monkey that shares with humans strong tendencies for nepotism and political manoeuvring, according to research.

“After humans, rhesus macaques are one of the most successful primate species on our planet; our Machiavellian intelligence may be one of the reasons for our success” Maestripieri wrote in his new book ‘Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World’.

Rhesus macaques live in complex societies with strong dominance hierarchies and long-lasting social bonds between female relatives.

Individuals constantly vie for high social status and the power that comes with it by using ruthless aggression, nepotism, and complex political alliances.

The monkeys also use sex for political purposes and the tactics used to increase or maintain their power are not much different from those which Machiavelli suggested political leaders use during the Renaissance.

Alpha males, who rule the 50 or so macaques in the troop, use threats and violence to hold on to the safest sleeping places, the best food, and access to the females in the group with whom they want to have sex.

The way human dictators intent on holding power, dominant monkeys also use frequent and unpredictable aggression as an effective form of intimidation.

Less powerful members of the rhesus macaque group are marginalized and forced to live on the edges of the group’s area, where they are vulnerable to predator attacks.

“In rhesus society, dominants always travel in business class and subordinates in economy, and if the flight is overbooked, it’s the subordinates who get bumped off the plane,” Maestripieri wrote.

“Social status can make the difference between life and death in human societies too,” he wrote.

Altruism is rare, in the monkeys of the particular group and, in most cases, only a form of nepotistic behaviour.

Mothers help their daughters achieve a status similar to their own and to maintain it throughout their lives.

Females act in Machiavellian ways also when it comes to reproduction. They make sure they have lots of sex with the alpha male to increase the chances he will protect their newborn infant from other monkeys 6 months later.

“But while they have lots of sex with the alpha male and make him think he’s going to be the father of their baby, the females also have sex with all the other males in the group behind the alpha male’s back,” Maestripieri said.

Struggles for power within a group sometimes culminate in a revolution, in which entire families of subordinates suddenly attack all members of the most dominant family.

These revolutions result in drastic changes in the structure of power within rhesus societies, not unlike those occurring following human revolutions.

Rhesus macaques dislike strangers and would viciously attack their own image in a mirror, thinking it’s a stranger threatening them.

When warfare begins, “Even a low-ranking rhesus loner becomes an instant patriot. Every drop of xenophobia in rhesus blood is transformed into fuel for battle,” Maestripieri wrote.

“What rhesus macaques and humans may have in common is that many of their psychological and behavioural dispositions have been shaped by intense competition between individuals and groups during the evolutionary history of these species” Maestripieri said. (ANI)

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