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The Thinking ApeEvolutionary Origins of Intelligence$
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Richard Byrne

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198522652

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198522652.001.0001

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Machiavellian intelligence

Machiavellian intelligence

(p.195) 13 Machiavellian intelligence
The Thinking Ape

Richard Byrne

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the background and evidence for the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis. The essence of the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis is that intelligence evolved in social circumstances. The individuals who are favoured are the ones who are able to use and exploit others in their social group, without causing disruption and potential group fission liable to result in naked aggression. Their manipulations might as easily involve co-operation as conflict, sharing as hoarding — but in each case the end is exploitative and selfish. Consistent with the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis, social species of primate display both complexity of social manipulation and considerable knowledge of social information. This social complexity needs to be fully appreciated in order to understand the strength of the case for Machiavellian intelligence.

Keywords:   Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis, primates, social manipulation, social complexity, social groups

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