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The 'social brain' hypothesis has had a major impact on the study of comparative cognition. However, despite a strong sense, gained from both experimental and observational work, that monkeys and apes differ from each other, we are still no closer to understanding exactly how they differ. We hypothesize that the dispersed social systems characteristic of ape societies explains why monkeys and apes should differ cognitively. The increased cognitive control and analogical reasoning ability needed to cope with life in dispersed societies also suggests a possible route for human cognitive evolution. This hypothesis is supported by behavioural and neurobiological data, but we need more of both if we are to fully understand how our primate cousins see the world.

Original publication




Journal article


Trends in Cognitive Sciences

Publication Date





494 - 497