november, 2016

01nov1:00 pm2:00 pmAre indirect connections in social networks important to animal behaviour?Dr Lauren Brent


Event Details



Social network analysis’ ability to measure individual connectedness in both the dyadic and polyadic (or ‘indirect’) sense is one of the main features that sets it apart from more traditional approaches to the study of behaviour. Indirect connections influence the health, well-being, and financial success of humans. But whether indirect connections are important to other animals, and by consequence critical to biologists’ understanding of the causes and consequences of sociality in those animals, remains unclear. Here, I aim to demonstrate that there is mounting evidence that indirect connections are important to our understanding of animal behaviour. I focus on studies that have explored the fitness consequences of indirect connections, highlighting those that have uncovered new and important information that would not have been revealed had the focus been solely at the level of dyadic associations. Based on this overview, I conclude that although the number of studies that demonstrate that indirect connections may be an important component of animal sociality has become too great to ignore, many questions remain open and additional research is required.

Lauren Brent is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and Lecturer in the Psychology department at the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on the evolution of sociality and ask why social relationships are formed and how they are maintained. The bulk of her research is focused on a highly gregarious primate, the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), where I have provided some of the first evidence of the fitness benefits of sociality, showing that the infants of individuals who are more deeply embedded in their social network are more likely to survive, and females with larger families live longer. I have also shown that an individual’s position in their social network is heritable, confirming that sociality is under genetic control and is a trait on which selection may act. I am also currently (or have recently been) involved in projects on other social mammals, including vampire bats, elephants, dairy cows, and killer whales.

If anyone would like to meet with Lauren please contact Sue Healy.

Lauren Brent’s website


(Tuesday) 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Dyer's Brae Seminar Room

Dyers Brae, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Greenside Place, Fife, KY16 9TH, UK


Ellen Garland & Christian, Dyers Brae, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9TH, UK