Animal group living

The research line of animal group living focuses on the evolution, mechanisms and functions of primate social cognition. Indispensable for the study of complex social systems is the understanding of distinct social behaviours and the role of cognition underlying this complexity. Primates are a unique taxon to study the pivotal role of social cognitive capacities in social behaviour, since they are hypothesized to exhibit a gradient in social cognitive capacities across species. While humans certainly possess the most advanced type, namely Theory of Mind, our nearest ape relatives (chimpanzees) may possess some elementary form of this capacity, while this is probably lacking in more distant monkey relatives (e.g. macaques). This gradient allows a comparative approach to the mechanisms and function of cognition and social behaviour, involving behavioural tests of cognitive capacities in combination with observational studies and computer simulations of (primate) social behaviour. The next challenge is to investigate how basic social cognitive capacities can be understood in functional terms and translate to  human social behaviour. This knowledge on primate social behavior contributes to optimal primate social housing conditions.