A more recent theory however, suggests that social systems - including "positive" behaviors such as cooperation and interdependency - might have arisen as a kind of group defense mechanism against predators.
The "social-living prey" hypothesis will be the focus of a symposium entitled "Man the Hunted: The Origin and Nature of Human Sociality," on February 19. Featuring two prominent primate researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the symposium is an event of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Feb. 16-20.
As primates spend less than 10 percent of their time engaging in social interactions, most scientists have focused on aggressive and competitive behaviors to explain the complex social dynamics seen in many primate societies.
But panelists Karen Strier, a UW-Madison professor of biological anthropology; and Charles Snowdon, a UW-Madison professor of psychology; will instead speak on the importance of "affiliative" or positive behaviors, such as grooming, physical touch and infant care.
For more than 20 years, Strier has monitored a population of Northern muriquis, a critically endangered primate from Brazil. Based on her observations, Strier knows that muriquis spend less than three percent of their time involved in direct social interactions, and more than 60 percent of their time near other individuals in their groups.
In her talk, entitled "How Social are Social Primates?," Strier will make the novel suggestion that rather than the frequency of direct social contact, it is the ways in which male muriquis network through their associ