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“Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J Shreeve

The article “Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J. Shreeve describes intelligence and IQ factors of monkeys. The author finds that a young baboon Paul has a high level of intelligence and can be compared with humans playing and interacting with each other. To humans, animals also practice deception playing tricks with other animals. Shreeve compares these tricks with Machiavellian “cunning to a blowfish”. To say that a particular character has heritability is to say that it is not greatly influenced by existing environmental differences experienced in that animal population. The author says nothing about the consequences of these manipulations. Having perhaps cleared away some misunderstandings about the meaning of deception in animals, Shreeve calls this process “programmed genetic responses”. Researchers can start to consider how it may be estimated.

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The broad heritability of a particular characteristic in an animal population is the proportion of discrepancy in that characteristic attributable to genetic differences between members of that animal group, the remainder being attributable to environmental factors. The author finds that in some cases deception is a part of food search or a part of playing. The most important is the fact that “intellect is the main tool which helps chimpanzees and humans to keep to social unit together” (Shreeve). Following Machiavelli, these factors are reflected in concepts of cooperation and compassion. Similarly, it is customary to divide environmental sources of difference into two components: between social unit or common environment and unit or special environment. The former refers to the effects of environmental factors that members of the same social unit share in common, but which may differ between families; the standard examples are social class, income, and neighborhood.

The article is very interested as it proposes new insights into the problem of intellect and IQ in primates. The research allows to say that both animals and humans need cooperation and compassion as the main forces of their social order. To repeat: animals are attempts to partition variance, i.e. to understand the sources of differences between members of their group, not an attempt to ascertain how much any particular characteristics are due to his genes or social environment. The relative importance of genetic and environmental sources of intellect in producing differences in any nature may be estimated by ascertaining the degree to which variation in that character is associated with genetic disparity in the population and how far with environmental variation.

In primates geneticists are free to conduct experiments: researchers can measure the extent to which an IQ characteristic responds to selective breeding, or they can back animals in controlled environments. According to Shreeve’s argument, all primates’ characteristics are a product of an interaction between genes and social unit during the course of development, and attempting to estimate the autonomous contribution of the two is like asking whether the part of a field is due more to its length. The article is interested as it highlights and evaluates similarities between humans and primates, and analyzes the problem of deception as the main tool of playing and interaction. Finally, it becomes evident for readers that behavior genetic analyses and tests have usually recognized the possibility of two other sources of variation that involve both intellect and environment: cooperation and interaction. Cooperation means the possibility that there might be a correlation between intellect of primates and high or low IQ and environments.

Works Cited

Shreeve, J. Machiavellian Monkey’s.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 21). “Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J Shreeve.

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"“Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J Shreeve." StudyCorgi, 21 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J Shreeve." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J Shreeve." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J Shreeve." November 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Machiavellian Monkey’s” by J Shreeve'. 21 November.

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