Celebrating the continued importance of "Machiavellian Intelligence" 30 years on



Hopper LM, van de Waal E & Caldwell CA (2018) Celebrating the continued importance of "Machiavellian Intelligence" 30 years on. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 132, pp. 427-431.

The question of what has shaped primates’ (and other species’) cognitive capacities, whether technical or social demands, remains a hot topic of inquiry. Indeed, a key area of study within the field of comparative psychology in the last few decades has been the focus on social life as a driving force behind the evolution of cognition, studied from behavioral and neurological perspectives and from theoretical and empirical perspectives. Reflecting on contemporary studies of primate social cognition specifically, one cannot ignore the book, Machiavellian Intelligence, coedited by Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiten (Byrne & Whiten, 1988a). It is a keystone for the field: The volume as a whole has been cited over 3,000 times, without even including citations to individual chapters. This year, 2018, is the 30th anniversary of the first publication of Machiavellian Intelligence, and with this special issue of the Journal of Comparative Psychology, we mark that milestone. The key concept put forth in Machiavellian Intelligence was that primates’ sociocognitive abilities were shaped by the complex social worlds that they inhabited, rather than the technical or foraging challenges that they faced, as had previously been posited. In this issue, we consider the strength of the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis 30 years on to explain primate social cognition, and we consider its applicability to nonprimate species and to other cognitive domains.

Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis; social intelligence hypothesis; social cognition; brain size; encephalization quotient

Journal of Comparative Psychology: Volume 132

Publication date30/11/2018
Publication date online01/11/2018
Date accepted by journal13/09/2018

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Professor Christine Anna Caldwell

Professor Christine Anna Caldwell

Professor, Psychology