Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Cheney, Dorothy L.
Location University of Pennsylvania
Primary Field Anthropology
Secondary Field Evolutionary Biology
 Election Citation
Cheney has pioneered new experimental techniques for studying comparative cognition among nonhuman primates living in natural environments, and for learning how monkeys process information about their physical and social worlds. Her work on primate intelligence has provided new insights into the nonhuman use of symbolic signaling.
 Research Interests
Dorothy Cheney's research focuses on the social behavior and cognition of wild primates, notably vervet monkeys in Amboseli National Park (1977-1988) and baboons in the Moremi Reserve, Botswana (1992-2008). She and her colleagues have used playback experiments to show that monkeys have a sophisticated understanding of each other's dominance ranks and social relationships. They have also used non-invasive techniques to study the factors that contribute to stress and its alleviation under natural conditions. Their research on baboons has shown that, as in humans, individuals who establish close, stable bonds with others experience increased fitness in the form of greater longevity and offspring survival. Individuals with close social bonds also experience reduced stress levels. These results suggest that natural selection has favored individuals who have both the skill and the motivation to form strategic social bonds, and that the evolutionary antecedents of human cooperation can be found even in species without language or culture.

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