Interactions with conspecific outsiders as drivers of cognitive evolution

Benjamin J. Ashton, Patrick Kennedy, Andrew N. Radford*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The social intelligence hypothesis (SIH) posits that within-group interactions drive cognitive evolution, but it has received equivocal support. We argue the SIH overlooks a major component of social life: interactions with conspecific outsiders. Competition for vital resources means conspecific outsiders present myriad threats and opportunities in all animal taxa across the social spectrum (from individuals to groups). We detail cognitive challenges generated by conspecific outsiders, arguing these select for ‘Napoleonic’ intelligence; explain potential influences on the SIH; and highlight important considerations when empirically testing these ideas. Including interactions with conspecific outsiders may substantially improve our understanding of cognitive evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4937
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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