How can social network analysis contribute to social behavior research in applied ethology?

Maja M. Makagon, Brenda Mccowan, Joy A. Mench

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Social network analysis is increasingly used by behavioral ecologists and primatologists to describe the patterns and quality of interactions among individuals. We provide an overview of this methodology, with examples illustrating how it can be used to study social behavior in applied contexts. Like most kinds of social interaction analyses, social network analysis provides information about direct relationships (e.g. dominant-subordinate relationships). However, it also generates a more global model of social organization that determines how individual patterns of social interaction relate to individual and group characteristics. A particular strength of this approach is that it provides standardized mathematical methods for calculating metrics of sociality across levels of social organization, from the population and group levels to the individual level. At the group level these metrics can be used to track changes in social network structures over time, evaluate the effect of the environment on social network structure, or compare social structures across groups, populations or species. At the individual level, the metrics allow quantification of the heterogeneity of social experience within groups and identification of individuals who may play especially important roles in maintaining social stability or information flow throughout the network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-161
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Animal groups
  • Social behavior
  • Social networks
  • Social structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Animals


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