Social knowledge

Keith Jensen, Joan B. Silk, Kristin Andrews, Redouan Bshary, Dorothy L. Cheney, Nathan Emery, Charlotte K. Hemelrijk, Kay Holekamp, Derek C. Penn, Josef Perner, Christoph Teufel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


The social milieus of animals can be complex, ranging from almost completely asocial to monogamous pairs (no mean feat) to entire societies. To adapt to a constantly shifting environment of individuals striving toward their own goals, animals appear to have evolved specialized cognitive abilities. As appealing and intuitive as the idea of social cognition is, just defi ning it is diffi cult. We attempted to delineate social cognition, speculate on its adaptive value, and come to an understanding of what we mean when we talk about complexity. Transitive inference was often brought up as an example of a cognitive ability that is important for social animals, though the focus of much of the discussion was on theory of mind. For some, theory of mind is something of a Holy Grail, whereas for others, it is more of a McGuffi n. There are a number of challenges and debates in trying to determine what cognitive abilities different animals use to solve their social problems. This chapter discusses methodological approaches and issues that are needed to propel the future of research into social knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnimal Thinking
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Issues in Comparative Cognition
PublisherThe MIT Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780262016636
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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