Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind
Dorothy L. Cheney, Robert M. Seyfarth
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In 1838 Charles Darwin jotted in a notebook, “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.” Baboon Metaphysics is Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth’s fascinating response to Darwin’s challenge.
Cheney and Seyfarth set up camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where they could intimately observe baboons and their social world. Baboons live in groups of up to 150, including a handful of males and eight or nine matrilineal families of females. Such numbers force baboons to form a complicated mix of short-term bonds for mating and longer-term friendships based on careful calculations of status and individual need.
But Baboon Metaphysics is concerned with much more than just baboons’ social organization—Cheney and Seyfarth aim to fully comprehend the intelligence that underlies it. Using innovative field experiments, the authors learn that for baboons, just as for humans, family and friends hold the key to mitigating the ill effects of grief, stress, and anxiety.
Written with a scientist’s precision and a nature-lover’s eye, Baboon Metaphysics gives us an unprecedented and compelling glimpse into the mind of another species.
“The vivid narrative is like a bush detective story.”—Steven Poole, Guardian
“Baboon Metaphysics is a distillation of a big chunk of academic lives. . . . It is exactly what such a book should be—full of imaginative experiments, meticulous scholarship, limpid literary style, and above all, truly important questions.”—Alison Jolly, Science
“Cheney and Seyfarth found that for a baboon to get on in life involves a complicated blend of short-term relationships, friendships, and careful status calculations. . . . Needless to say, the ensuing political machinations and convenient romantic dalliances in the quest to become numero uno rival the bard himself.”—Science News
“Cheney and Seyfarth’s enthusiasm is obvious, and their knowledge is vast and expressed with great clarity. All this makes Baboon Metaphysics a captivating read. It will get you thinking—and maybe spur you to travel to Africa to see it all for yourself.”—Asif A. Ghazanfar, Nature
“Through ingenious playback experiments . . . Cheney and Seyfarth have worked out many aspects of what baboons used their minds for, along with their limitations. Reading a baboon’s mind affords an excellent grasp of the dynamics of baboon society. But more than that, it bears on the evolution of the human mind and the nature of human existence.”—Nicholas Wade, New York Times
Diagram Prize Nominee (2008)
A N D L E G E N D Gulliver encounters the Yahoos, he is shocked to ﬁnd that they resemble humans in every detail of their bodies yet they behave like animals. They have no language, but can only bellow loudly and repeatedly. By contrast, the Yahoos’ masters, the noble and generous Houyhnhnms, have both the ability to reason and the gift of language even though their bodies are those of horses. At ﬁrst the Houyhnhnms assume that Gulliver is himself a Yahoo, but once he demonstrates his good.
Lowered reproduction (e.g., Stavisky et al. 2001; reviewed by Sapolsky 2005). There is no evidence, from either the Okavango or other areas of Africa, that low-ranking female baboons have generally elevated glucocorticoid levels (Weingrill et al. 2004; Beehner et al. 2005; Engh et al. 2006a,b). They do, however, experience stress when their ranks are at risk of changing. As with humans and male baboons, what is stressful 85 CHAPTER FIVE to female baboons is not low rank per se, but the.
That different types of relationships are characterized by different patterns of spatial proximity. As a result, they are not surprised when a playback experiment suggests that a female is not in close proximity to her adult or juvenile daughter. They do, however, respond strongly to playbacks suggesting even a temporary separation between a male and his consort female. They apparently understand that some close social relationships are characterized by continuous spatial proximity, while others.
Context-dependence is preserved when the monkey observes another individual perform these actions. Signiﬁcantly, many neurons begin to ﬁre before the other individual actually performs a speciﬁc action—that is, before he grasps-to-eat as opposed to grasps-to-place. Thus, it seems possible that these neurons encode not only the speciﬁc motor act but also the actor’s intentions (Fogassi et al. 2005; see also Nakahara and Miyashita 2005; Rizzolatti and Craighero 2004; Rizzolatti and Buccino 2005).
They had heard the “reconciliatory” grunt of another, unrelated female. Here again, subjects behaved as if they believed that a grunt from their aggressor’s relative must be directed at them, as a consequence of the ﬁght. An unrelated female’s grunt was deemed irrelevant. What is especially interesting in these experiments is that subjects inferred that they were the target of the vocalization even though they had not recently interacted with the signaler, but with her relative. They could only.