Human societies are characterized by sophisticated social relationships and collaborations, and their complexity is seen as unique within the animal kingdom. Several facets, however, can also be found in nonhuman primates, the majority of which also lives in differentiated, complex social groups. Yet, there seem to be substantial differences in terms of the socio-cognitive abilities involved in regulating social behavior in non-human primates and humans, such as language or the ability to attribute mental states to others. It is currently debated whether the underlying cognitive mechanisms underpinning human and nonhuman primates’ maneuverings in social groups differ only in degree or rather in kind. The members of the newly established Research Training Group 2070 “Understanding Social Relationships” will contribute to this debate. The research projects within this RTG are investigating the understanding of social relationships by studying the following three areas: a) the use and understanding of social signals as key constituents of social relationships, b) social monitoring as the ability to track, and maintain social relationships, and c) social coordination.
It is the aim of the RTG 2070 to create an interdisciplinary research environment for PhD students and to provide structured training for young scientists. The methodological spectrum available in the RTG ranges from behavioral observation of free-ranging nonhuman primates to experimental studies with human adults, children and nonhuman primates and electrophysiological as well as endocrinological measures. The DFG-funded RTG 2070 is a cooperative endeavor of the University of Göttingen and the German Primate Center under participation of behavioral biologists, psychologists, linguists and psycholinguists.