Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2020

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Primate Behavior

Committee Chair

Lixing Sun

Second Committee Member

Jessica Mayhew

Third Committee Member

Lori Sheeran


Social cognition is vital for the proper integration into adulthood for any highly social animal species. The development of social intelligence during the childhood and adolescence of a social organism affects the individual throughout its life. This social intelligence allows for the establishment and maintenance of bonds through the formation of empathy, the understanding of intention and emotion, and theory of mind in some species. Changes to the rate and effectiveness of social development could lead to an individual incapable of integrating into the social environment of adulthood. Yet, much still needs to be learned about the process and influences of social development. Through the study of the play and social behavior in infant and juvenile Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana) at Mt. Huangshan, China, I made comparisons of these social behavioral frequencies across ages. I found consistent relationships between social behavioral frequencies, specifically grooming, bridging, and play behaviors, and the age of the individual. According to these frequency patterns, individuals around 4 years of age begin to exhibit social behaviors consistent with those of adulthood. However, I also established that the more complex behaviors of play handicapping and play signaling that are believed to be linked to a complex social understanding are not directly and solely related to age. My results suggest other influences likely play a role in the ontogeny of social behaviors including the sex of the individual and maternal rank. To gain a clearer and in depth understanding of the exact progression and influences of social development in young Tibetan macaques, longitudinal studies are required.