(An extract of my book Narrative Madness, edited by Katie Fox, which you can get at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon.)
The Machiavellian Prince of Primates
Many other species are social as well, so why didn’t they develop sophisticated systems of symbolic communication? Primate societies developed language because of the exaggerated complexity of our manipulative social interactions. The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences says that “primate social relationships have been characterized as manipulative and sometimes deceptive at sophisticated levels” (Wilson and Kiel). Writes Kerstin Dautenhahn, biologist and professor of computer science, paraphrasing Frans de Waal, “Identifying friends and allies, predicting behavior of others, knowing how to form alliances, manipulating group members, making war, love and peace, are important ingredients of primate politics.” A hominid skilled at manipulation would be better suited than its more submissive counterparts to win resources, sex and power.
Continue reading “How Hominids Manage Tricky Social Relations: The Theory of Mind and Mindreading Games”