Social power, conflict policing, and the role of subordination signals in rhesus macaque society

Brianne Beisner, Darcy Hannibal, Kelly R. Finn, Hsieh Fushing, Brenda Mccowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objectives: Policing is a conflict-limiting mechanism observed in many primate species. It is thought to require a skewed distribution of social power for some individuals to have sufficiently high social power to stop others' fights, yet social power has not been examined in most species with policing behavior. We examined networks of subordination signals as a source of social power that permits policing behavior in rhesus macaques. Materials and Methods: For each of seven captive groups of rhesus macaques, we (a) examined the structure of subordination signal networks and used GLMs to examine the relationship between (b) pairwise dominance certainty and subordination network pathways and (c) policing frequency and social power (group-level convergence in subordination signaling pathways). Results: Networks of subordination signals had perfect linear transitivity, and pairs connected by both direct and indirect pathways of signals had more certain dominance relationships than pairs with no such network connection. Social power calculated using both direct and indirect network pathways showed a heavy-tailed distribution and positively predicted conflict policing. Conclusions: Our results empirically substantiate that subordination signaling is associated with greater dominance relationship certainty and further show that pairs who signal rarely (or not at all) may use information from others' signaling interactions to infer or reaffirm the relative certainty of their own relationships. We argue that the network of formal dominance relationships is central to societal stability because it is important for relationship stability and also supports the additional stabilizing mechanism of policing. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2016.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
StateAccepted/In press - 2016


  • Formal signals of dominance
  • SBT
  • Social power
  • Social stability
  • Subordination networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Anatomy


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