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High-resolution maps of hunter-gatherer social networks reveal human adaptation for cultural exchange

By Andrea Bamberg Migliano, Abigail Page, Jesus Gómez-Gardeñes, Sylvain Viguier, Mark Dyble, James Thompson, Nikhill Chaudhary, Gul Deniz Salali, Daniel Smith, Janis Strods, Vito Latora, Ruth Mace, Lucio Vinicius

Posted 19 Feb 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/040154

Are interactions with unrelated and even unknown individuals a by-product of modern life in megacities? Here we argue instead that social ties among non-kin are a crucial human adaptation. By deploying a new portable wireless sensing technology (motes), we mapped social networks in Agta and BaYaka hunter-gatherers in unprecedented detail. We show that strong friendships with non-kin optimize the global efficiency of their social networks thereby facilitating cultural exchange, and that the adaptation for forming friendship ties appears early in development. The ability to extend networks and form strong non-kin ties may explain some human distinctive characteristics such as hypersociality and cumulative culture, and the tendency to exchange ideas with unrelated and unknown individuals in megacities and online social networks.

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