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Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World Hardcover – November 30, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Rhesus monkeys and humans are highly successful survivors in a complex and sometimes cruel world. Macachiavellian Intelligence, a good read about the nitty-gritty details of how rhesus monkeys make it, tells us a lot about ourselves. It's often not a pretty picture to read about manipulative social opportunism, but if we ignore the important message of this book we, not the monkeys or other animals, will be the big losers.”
(Marc Bekoff, author of Minding Animals and The Emotional Lives of Animals)

"Maestripieri tells the story with incisive prose, sharp wit and admirable brevity, and the book should appeal to a wide audience from cynical teenagers to economists who believe that the 'invisible hand' of competition underlies all human society."
(Alison Jolly Times Higher Education Supplement)

“Last year, a U.S. senator doomed his chances of reelection when he referred to a protestor as a 'macaca,' a slur sometimes used for dark-skinned people. But ‘macaca’ is also a name for the rhesus macaque monkey, and Maestripieri writes, ‘If politicians knew more about the Machiavellian intelligence of rhesus macaques, they would probably call one another “macaca” all the time, but mean it as a compliment.’ Maestripieri goes on to describe the social lives and competitive society of macaques, who aren't above using violence and manipulation to get ahead and stay there.”

(Discover)

Macachiavellian Intelligence provides deep insights into the fascinating psychology of both rhesus macaques and humans. Written in an engaging style with gripping examples that highlight key principles, it gives readers a profound understanding of the things we all care about—sex, status, dominance, aggression, kin, cooperation, and conflict. Macachiavellian Intelligence is a must-read for anyone interested in the strategies we primates use to navigate the complexities of social living.”--David M. Buss, author of The Evolution of Desire:  Strategies of Human Mating and Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind
(David M. Buss)

“Books devoted to the topic of primate behavior and its similarity to humans are dominated by studies of great apes. Dario Maestripieri fills that lamentable gap with Macachiavellian Intelligence, weaving an explanation of macaque evolution and social organization into a story that also helps to explain many aspects of human behavior. Maestripieri’s keen insights into both macaques and humans, presented with humor and personality, make MacachiavellianIntelligence a captivating read.”
(William Hopkins, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University)

"Primate books are good for us. They remind us that we're primates, too. And the embarrassing primate books are best. Macachiavellian Intelligence is an excellently embarrassing primate book, and just the thing to make us blush and shuffle our feet."
(Michael Bywater Telegraph)

"A salutary reminder that we are members of the Order Primates as much as of the Family Hominidae, and not all that different from our disquietingly nasty cousins."
(Sarah F. Brosnan Nature)

"This is a book that will appeal to a wide audience, but without losing the science."
(Michael Cuisin Mammalia)

About the Author

Dario Maestripieri is associate professor of comparative human development and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226501175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226501178
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,448,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on December 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If chimpanzees and bonobos are our close evolutionary brothers and sisters, then rhesus macaques are, say, our step-brothers: not as genetically close as brothers but close enough to help plan the family reunion. Unfortunately, they are rarely talked about as related to homo sapiens. Maybe that is because, as will be seen in this book, they are so danged nasty.

The point of Dario Maestripieri's book is to give us an anthropological glimpse at rhesus macaques and their very Machiavellian behavior. And the point of doing that is to show that rhesus macaques are very, very similar to humans in certain, and not always good, ways. They are very territorial, trade favors for services, dislike "outsiders" (not of their group) with a passion, stage revolutions of the weak against the strong, etc, etc. Not to sound flippant, but the behavior of rhesus macaques is quite similar in kind to the behavior of human gangs (be they bloods, skinheads, motorcycle gangs, or la cosa nostra). Or to put it differently, rhesus society resembles a slightly less individualistic version of Hobbes's state of nature.

Maestripieri has spent decades looking at how rhesus macaques operate, and the book reads like an anthropology text. Behavior is explained and anecdotes are given to support these explanations. We see how macaques organize themselves into hierarchies (and hierarchies within hierarchies), how (fragile) bonds are formed by exchanging favors for...umm...services, and even how they play oligarchical politics.

To me, the big fault of the book is that the author never really argues the point that we should see rhesus behavior as an illuminator of our own behavior as much as he assumes it.
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Format: Hardcover
Within the category of pop-science books there is a lot of imitation. One interesting book on economy in daily life was published (Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.)) and suddenly we had ten such books.

In contrast, the current book is a totally fresh contribution to pop-science; the author is drawing parallels between (one race of) monkeys and humans. This might sound a bit trivial, because it is not driven by theoretical arguments. That might be, but the book is a delight to read. The author is funny and provocative at times. In addition he tells some anecdotes that are actually interesting. If you have at least some fascination for monkeys and care about human nature, I think you will love this book. You will learn both about monkey and humans. I feel uplifted after reading the book, for some reason. A clear five star book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What type of intelligence has enabled humans to dominate every ecosystem on Earth? Could it be our "Machiavellian Intelligence," a specific type of social intelligence that enables us to manipulate others to get what we want?

The Rhesus Macaques Monkeys aren't the closest human relative, so you should expect an exact replica of human behavior. The Rhesus Macaques is close enough and simple enough that observing their behavior can inform assumptions about human behavior. Their strategies are simple enough that scientists like Dario Maestripieri are able to interpret them.

Is human behavior just a more sophisticated version of Rhesus Macaques behavior? Do we have the same motivations, just more complex strategies for achieving them?

Maestripieri's portrays the Rhesus Macaques as hierarchical and selfish. When Rhesus Macaques compete for power is direct and often physical. People are more subtle, but our intentions seem the same. The Rhesus Macaques for alliances based on heredity. When people form alliances outside their families, are they altruistic or trying to take advantage of the other members? Altruism doesn't possible for Rhesus Macaques. Is it possible for humans or is it all deception?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I came across this book in doing research for an article that I have been working on for some time. I needed more information about innate features of human social structure and behavior.

There seems to be an idea that humans are unique, both in our intelligence and in our selfish and aggressive behavior. While the Rhesus Macaque is indeed further away from humans on the evolutionary tree than Pan troglodytes (the Chimpanzee), it is no less important in understanding human behavior. Maestripieri provides a full discussion of the nature of macaque social structure and behavior and in doing so, helps to provide a greater understanding of our own.
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Format: Hardcover
"Humans can be quite flexible and adjust to their circumstances, but when all the outer layers of individualism and egalitarianism are peeled off, they have a despotic and nepotistic core that is not unlike that of rhesus macaques." - Dario Maestripieri (p164)

Yes, the book could use a writer's touch. But it is by no means difficult reading. Yes, some of the pop culture metaphors are a bit hokey. But it's a book that's meant to be fun, for people like me, who are new to primatology, and are curious as to what primate research is telling us about human nature. I thought the story of the social climbing female named Tequila was an absolute riot, whether or not it was tinged by anthropomorphism. As a layperson, I also understand that this is only one species, and only one window through which to look at primate behavior as a reflection of our own. I expect the experts to squabble over specifics - like a group of rhesus macaques.

But for anyone interested in the big picture of primate and human `culture', and for anyone who appreciates some insights and opinions rather than just facts, I strongly suggest they include this book in their reading along with a few books by Frans de Waal - and the somewhat outdated but still entertaining classic from the sixties by Desmond Morris titled "The Naked Ape".
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