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Int J Primatol. 2011 Dec;32(6):1279-1295. Epub 2011 Oct 19.

Communication and Cognition in Primate Group Movement.


We here review the communicative and cognitive processes underpinning collective group movement in animals. Generally, we identify 2 major axes to explain the dynamics of decision making in animal or human groups or aggregations: One describes whether the behavior is largely determined by simple rules such as keeping a specific distance from the neighbor, or whether global information is also factored in. The second axis describes whether or not the individual constituents of the group have overlapping or diverging interests. We then review the available evidence for baboons, which have been particularly well studied, but we also draw from further studies on other nonhuman primate species. Baboons and other nonhuman primates may produce specific signals in the group movement context, such as the notifying behavior of male hamadryas baboons at the departure from the sleeping site, or clear barks that are given by chacma baboons that have lost contact with the group or specific individuals. Such signals can be understood as expressions of specific motivational states of the individuals, but there is no evidence that the subjects intend to alter the knowledge state of the recipients. There is also no evidence for shared intentionality. The cognitive demands that are associated with decision making in the context of group coordination vary with the amount of information and possibly conflicting sources of information that need to be integrated. Thus, selective pressures should favor the use of signals that maintain group cohesion, while recipients should be selected to be able to make the decision that is in their own best interest in light of all the available information.

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