Humans are perhaps the most social animals. Although some eusocial insects, herd mammals, and seabirds live in colonies comprising millions of individuals, no other species lives in such a variety of social groups as Homo sapiens. We live in many different sized societies, from small, nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to cities consisting of millions of people living in close proximity; we form special social bonds with kin and many of us make lifelong commitments to one socio-sexual partner, represented in the shape of marriage. Although the fledgling concept of social intelligence was formulated over 50 years ago by Chance & Mead, and more explicitly by Jolly 13 years later, it was perhaps Nick Humphrey’s seminal paper on the ‘social function of intellect’ that paved the way for the past 30 years of productive research in so many seemingly unrelated areas of the biological and social sciences. It is Nick’s significant contributions, as evidenced by the number of quotations to his work in this special issue, and the anniversary of the birth of the ‘social intelligence hypothesis’, that were celebrated at a Discussion Meeting of the Royal Society on 22 and 23 May 2006 and which form the basis of this special issue.
Research Professor. Director at Learning Change Project – Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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