Social network and decision-making in primates: a report on Franco-Japanese research collaborations
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- Sueur, C. & Pelé, M. Primates (2016) 57: 327. doi:10.1007/s10329-015-0505-z
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Sociality is suggested to evolve as a strategy for animals to cope with challenges in their environment. Within a population, each individual can be seen as part of a network of social interactions that vary in strength, type and dynamics (Sueur et al. 2011a). The structure of this social network can strongly impact upon not only on the fitness of individuals and their decision-making, but also on the ecology of populations and the evolution of a species. Our Franco-Japanese collaboration allowed us to study social networks in several species (Japanese macaques, chimpanzees, colobines, etc.) and on different topics (social epidemiology, social evolution, information transmission). Individual attributes such as stress, rank or age can affect how individuals take decisions and the structure of the social network. This heterogeneity is linked to the assortativity of individuals and to the efficiency of the flow within a network. It is important, therefore, that this heterogeneity is integrated in the process or pattern under study in order to provide a better resolution of investigation and, ultimately, a better understanding of behavioural strategies, social dynamics and social evolution. How social information affects decision-making could be important to understand how social groups make collective decisions and how information may spread throughout the social group. In human beings, road-crossing behaviours in the presence of other individuals is a good way to study the influence of social information on individual behaviour and decision-making, for instance. Culture directly affects which information — personal vs social — individuals prefer to follow. Our collaboration contributed to the understanding of the relative influence of different factors, cultural and ecological, on primate, including human, sociality.