Royal Society Publishing

An individual–orientated model of the emergence of despotic and egalitarian societies

Charlotte K. Hemelrijk


Single behavioural differences between egalitarian and despotic animal societies are often assumed to reflect specific adaptations. However, in the present paper, I will show in an individual–orientated model, how many behavioural traits of egalitarian and despotic virtual societies arise as emergent characteristics. The artificial entities live in a homogeneous world and only aggregate, and upon meeting one another and may perform dominance interactions in which the effects of winning and losing are self–reinforcing. The behaviour of these entities is studied in a similar way to that of real animals. It will be shown that by varying the intensity of aggression only, one may switch from egalitarian to despotic virtual societies. Differences between the two types of society appear to correspond closely to those between despotic and egalitarian macaque species in the real world. In addition, artificial despotic societies show a clearer spatial centrality of dominants and, counter–intuitively, more rank overlap between the sexes than the egalitarian ones. Because of the correspondence with patterns in real animals, the model makes it worthwhile comparing despotic and egalitarian species for socio–spatial structure and rank overlap too. Furthermore, it presents us with parsimonious hypotheses which can be tested in real animals for patterns of aggression, spatial structure and the distribution of social positive and sexual behaviour.