Consistency of social interactions in sooty mangabeys and chimpanzees

Alexander Mielke, Anna Preis, Liran Samuni, Jan F Gogarten, Jack D Lester, Catherine Crockford, Roman M Wittig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predictability of social interactions can be an important measure for the social complexity of an animal group. Predictability is partially dependent on how consistent interaction patterns are over time: does the behavior on 1 day explain the behavior on another? We developed a consistency measure that serves two functions: detecting which interaction types in a dataset are so inconsistent that including them in further analyses risks introducing unexplained error; and comparatively quantifying differences in consistency within and between animal groups. We applied the consistency measure to simulated data and field data for one group of sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys atys) and to groups of Western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in the Taï National Park, Côte d'Ivoire, to test its properties and compare consistency across groups. The consistency measures successfully identified interaction types whose low internal consistency would likely create analytical problems. Species-level differences in consistency were less pronounced than differences within groups: in all groups, aggression and dominance interactions were the most consistent, followed by grooming; spatial proximity at different levels was much less consistent than directed interactions. Our consistency measure can facilitate decision making of researchers wondering whether to include interaction types in their analyses or social networks and allows us to compare interaction types within and between species regarding their predictability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number603677
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021


  • Chimpanzee
  • Sooty mangabey
  • Social complexity
  • Sociality
  • Consistency
  • Replicability


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