A study recently published by NIMBioS, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis delves into the complex social decisions of animals. “Just as humans can follow complex social situations in deciding who to befriend or to abandon, so to do animals use the same level of sophistication in judging social configurations,” says the new study published in Animal Behaviour. By studying long-term the Rock Hyrax, Scientists were able to apply a social psychological theory called “structural balance., a method used to analyze the structure of animal social groups. The potential information of structural balance theory is the ability to predict patterns in the structure of the animal network, and the changes that could occur over time as the graph transitions from an unstable one to a stable one. By studying the social behavior of the the Rock Hyrax these scientists believe we can better understand human social behavior, which is far more complex. The study found that the Hyraxes tended to form balanced triangles, and when unbalanced triangles were present they changed towards balanced ones over time. The study also found that the “enemy of my enemy is my enemy” configuration was a stable triangle.
I found this article interesting because it applies the Structural Balance theorem to animals and ties this in with the evolution of social networks.