Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning

2012 Edition
| Editors: Norbert M. Seel

Machiavellian Intelligence Hypothesis

  • Michael JacksonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_1048

Synonyms

Definition

Elaborated originally in the study of primates, the “Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis” (Byrne and Whiten 1988, 1997) is that the large brains of humans grew over the millennia because of intense social competition for reproduction. Competitors evolved ever more complex strategies and tactics to achieve social dominance with consequent reproductive success. This hypothesis interprets even seemingly altruistic acts in primates as self-interested cunning.

Theoretical Background

The Hypothesis explains why primates have such large brains, far larger than that of other beasts of a similar size, far larger than necessary for most of their day-to-day lives. The brain size is puzzling because brains are expensive and fragile. They consume a great deal of energy; they are vulnerable to injury. What enlarged brain size brings is the capacity to interact socially and to remember previous social encounters (Humphrey 1976). Brains allow...

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References

  1. Bshary, R. (2006). Machiavellian intelligence in fishes. In C. Brown, K. Laland, & J. Krause (Eds.), Fish cognition and behaviour (pp. 223–242). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Byrne, R. W., & Whiten, A. (1988). Machiavellian intelligence: Social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  3. Byrne, R. W., & Whiten, A. (1997). Machiavellian intelligence II: Extensions and evaluations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. De Waal, F. (1982). Chimpanzee politics: Power and sex among apes. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
  5. Gordon, A. (2001). Playing chess with Machiavelli: improving interactive entertainment with explicit strategies (pp. 41–45). AAAI Technical Report SS-01-02.Google Scholar
  6. Humphrey, N. K. (1976). The social function of the intellecut. In P. P. G. Bateson & R. A. Hinde (Eds.), Growing points in ethology (pp. 303–317). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Government and International RelationsUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia