Click here to sign in with


Forget Password?

Learn more

October 6, 2020

by University of Bristol

From ants to primates, ‘Napoleonic’ intelligence has evolved to help animals contend with the myriad cognitive challenges arising from interactions with rival outsiders, suggest researchers at the University of Bristol in a paper published in Nature Communications today.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1449240174198-2’); });

Antagonistic and co-operative social interactions within groups have long been suggested to drive the evolution of big brains. But animals from across the social spectrum must constantly juggle threats and opportunities from outsiders too.

Interactions with outsiders have been little considered in the context of cognitive evolution. Drawing on their varied backgrounds in animal cognition, intergroup conflict and social evolution, the Bristol scientists have expanded the Social Intelligence Hypothesis to include this missing social axis.

Dr. Ben Ashton, honorary research associate and lead author from the School of Biological Sciences, said: “Outside threats and opportunities likely present a range of cognitive challenges. Animals have to defend their territories, find mates and compete for resources—we believe negotiating such challenges requires considerable brain power.”

Andy Radford, Professor of Behavioural Ecology and senior author, continued: “A vast amount of time and effort in the animal kingdom is devoted to gathering information about outsiders, and to avoiding, exploiting and winning interactions with them. But this aspect of sociality has traditionally been ignored in explanations of animal brain evolution.”

Dr. Patrick Kennedy, research associate and co-author added: “Biologists have shown how interactions with groupmates can generate ‘Machiavellian’ intelligence, the House of Cards-style cunning needed to get ahead in social politics within groups. We argue that animals also need ‘Napoleonic’ intelligence, the more Game of Thrones-style sharpness necessary to triumph in a world packed with rival outsiders.”

NiccolĂČ Machiavelli is perhaps best-known for his political treatise The Prince, a commentary on how to establish and retain power; the term Machiavellian subsequently became synonymous with ruthless realpolitik. Napoleon Bonaparte is considered one of the greatest military minds in history; the strategic intelligence underlying the Napoleonic campaigns is still used as an example in textbook warfare today.

Dr. Ashton, now at Macquarie University, Australia, said: “Cognitive evolution is one of the most hotly debated topics in biology, with considerable uncertainty remaining over the predominant drivers. Some of that uncertainty might be because a whole social axis—interactions with rival outsiders—has been largely ignored in both theoretical and empirical work.”

Dr. Kennedy added: “The possibility that outsiders have shaped intelligence has been suggested before, in particular by two of the pioneers of social evolution—Richard Alexander and William Hamilton. However, these brainy primates were thinking only of our own species; it is time to expand their insights beyond human cognition.”

Professor Radford concluded: “What do big-brained animals have in common with Napoleon Bonaparte? We suspect that their ancestors possessed the intelligence to triumph in one of the highest-stakes games of all: outmanoeuvring outsiders.”

Thank you for taking your time to send in your valued opinion to Science X editors.

You can be assured our editors closely monitor every feedback sent and will take appropriate actions. Your opinions are important to us.

We do not guarantee individual replies due to extremely high volume of correspondence.

Your email address is used only to let the recipient know who sent the email. Neither your address nor the recipient’s address will be used for any other purpose.
The information you enter will appear in your e-mail message and is not retained by in any form.

Get weekly and/or daily updates delivered to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time and we’ll never share your details to third parties.

This site uses cookies to assist with navigation, analyse your use of our services, and provide content from third parties.
By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy
and Terms of Use.


Research, Biology

World news – GB – Battling with neighbors could make animals smarter

En s’appuyant sur ses expertises dans les domaines du digital, des technologies et des process , CSS Engineering vous accompagne dans vos chantiers de transformation les plus ambitieux et vous aide Ă  faire Ă©merger de nouvelles idĂ©es, de nouvelles offres, de nouveaux modes de collaboration, de nouvelles maniĂšres de produire et de vendre.

CSS Engineering s’implique dans les projets de chaque client comme si c’était les siens. Nous croyons qu’une sociĂ©tĂ© de conseil devrait ĂȘtre plus que d’un conseiller. Nous nous mettons Ă  la place de nos clients, pour aligner nos incitations Ă  leurs objectifs, et collaborer pour dĂ©bloquer le plein potentiel de leur entreprise. Cela Ă©tablit des relations profondes et agrĂ©ables.

Nos services:

  1. Création des sites web professionnels
  2. Hébergement web haute performance et illimité
  3. Vente et installation des caméras de vidéo surveillance
  4. Vente et installation des systĂšme de sĂ©curitĂ© et d’alarme
  5. E-Marketing

Toutes nos réalisations ici


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here