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Contribution to Book
Social Knowledge
  • Keith Jensen, University of Manchester
  • Joan B. Silk, Arizona State University
  • Kristin Andrews, York University
  • Redouan Bshary, Université de Neuchâtel
  • Dorothy L. Cheney, University of Pennsylvania
  • Nathan Emery, Queen Mary University of London
  • Charlotte K. Hemelrijk, University of Groningen
  • Kay Holekamp, Michigan State University
  • Derek C. Penn, University of California - Los Angeles
  • Josef Perner, Universität Salzburg
  • Christoph Teufel, Cardiff University
Document Type
Book Chapter
Publication Date
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.


Citation Information
Jensen, K., Silk, J. B., Andrews, K., Bshary, R., Cheney, D. L., & Emery, N.,...Teufel, C. (2011). Social knowledge. In R. Menzel and J. Fischer (Eds.), Animal thinking: contemporary issues in comparative cognition (pp. 267-291). Cambridge, MA : MIT Press.