Anthropology, Biology, Reviews

Review: Cheney, Baboon Metaphysics

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The ALA’s Booklist magazine recently ran a positive review of Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth’s new book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. The review notes that many recent book-length studies of primates have successfully documented primate social organization, but not until Cheney and Seyfarth’s ground breaking new study has anyone attempted to document the intelligence that underlies it. Nancy Bent writes for Booklist:

Primatologists Cheney and Seyfarth have studied the same troop of chacma baboons since 1992, and here they demonstrate the importance of their social behavior. Living in a world of predators, baboons must rely on each other for safety, and the resulting large groups they live in are perfect hotbeds for complicated relationships. Matrilineal groups of females retain status by helping their own kin, whereas males act individually and for themselves. Females form short-term bonds with males for mating and long-term friendships with the same or other males for protection. But how do baboons view the world? How do they decide who to associate with, who to defer to, and who to dominate? Cheney and Seyfarth discuss these and other related questions in a style that both explains complex concepts and challenges the reader.

Written with a scientist’s precision and a nature-lover’s eye, Baboon Metaphysics gives us an unprecedented and compelling glimpse into the mind of another species.
Read an excerpt.