Meeting Abstract

S6.4  Monday, Jan. 5 09:30  Social complexity as a driver of communication and cognition SEWALL, KB*; ANDERSON, RC; PETERS, S; NOWICKI, S; ROTH, T; Virginia Tech; Florida Atlantic; Duke; Duke; Franklin and Marshall

The Social Intelligence Hypothesis posits that group living has driven the evolution of enhanced cognition necessary for navigating complex social environments. Specifically, high sociality has been associated with superior problem-solving and innovation in comparative studies across species. While large-scale evolutionary change can underlie enhanced cognition and perhaps also communication complexity, studies within species suggest that developmental processes and phenotypic flexibility (i.e., change within an individual’s lifespan) can also contribute to cognitive abilities. Specifically, group size has been positively correlated with faster problem-solving within species. Social experience can enhance cognition and underlying brain function during an individual’s lifetime by providing learning opportunities, or through mechanisms of environmental enrichment. We found that zebra finches reared in experimentally enlarged families, which could provide more complex social experiences to young birds, had superior inhibitory control compared to birds from smaller families. Given that inhibitory control is strongly predictive of problem-solving abilities, our findings suggest that group size could influence some general cognitive processes.