​Social and Moral Intelligence: How Do Animals Understand and Perceive the Rules of Social Life?
TWCF Number
Project Duration
February 1 / 2017
- March 31 / 2019
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
South America
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

* A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Susan Perry
Institution The Regents of the University of California

How do individuals develop their expectations about the proper way to interact with others? To what extent are these expectations based on individuals’ positions within nested social groups? And how is affect involved in the creation and maintenance of rules for social conduct?

We have a solid understanding of the social, moral, and emotional intelligences involved in the development of human social norms and rituals. Yet we don’t understand how these intelligences manifest themselves in wild animal populations. Currently, we lack the methodologies and datasets necessary to their presence or absence of social norms (i.e., group-specific, culturally established rules of behavior that are moralized and enforced by third-party punishment).

Through studying a population of wild white-faced capuchin monkeys, this project will create methodologies to identify such phenomena in nature. The Lomas Barbudal capuchins are an ideal subject. There is a wealth of pre-existing knowledge about them, and they are particularly likely to exhibit social norms. Intensely social animals, they engage in frequent cooperation and conflict and exhibit overt emotional displays. They also meddle in others’ interactions, socially transmit arbitrary behaviors, and develop creative rituals for testing social bonds. Such features suggest that they could benefit from creating and enforcing social norms.

UCLA’s Lomas Barbudal Monkey Project aims to document social norms in these wild animal populations. Using consistent methods for recording interactions, it has collected data on social groups for 26.5 years of data.

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