Richard W Byrne (1995). Machiavellian Intelligence. In The Thinking Ape: evolutionary origins of intelligence. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, ch13.

David Erdal, Andrew Whiten, Christopher Boehm & Bruce Knauft (1994). On Human Egalitarianism: An evolutionary product of Machiavellian status escalation? In Current Anthropology, vol 39, no 2, pp175-183.

Sergey Gavrilets & Aaron Vose (2006). The dynamics of Machiavellian intelligence. In PNAS, vol 103, no 45, pp16823-16828.

Bruce Hood (2012). The Machiavellian baby. In The Self Illusion: Why there is no 'you' inside your head. Constable & Robinson Ltd: London, UK, ch2.

John Orbell, Tomonori Morikawa, Jason Hartwig, James Hanley & Nicholas Allen (2004). “Machiavellian” Intelligence as a Basis for the Evolution of Cooperative Dispositions. In American Political Science Review, vol 98, no 1, pp1-15.

David Livingstone Smith (2004). Why We Lie: the evolutionary roots of deception and the unconscious mind. St Martins Griffin: New York, USA.


A term first adopted by Frans de Waal in 1982, Machiavellian Intelligence has come to represent the type of social cognition that primates, particularly Pan and Homo, seem to be so good at. It is characterised by a form of Theory of Mind: the individual sees other individuals as intentional beings, but the intentionality of others is a problem to be solved in order to enhance personal survivability. The emphasis is on manipulating others for personal gain, rather than accommodating the needs of those others.

Machiavellian Intelligence is, therefore, an unpromising origin for the cooperative communication involved in language; but its likely emergence in the Pan-Homo common ancestor needs to be acknowledged, and the dilemma it poses for language origins research needs to be explained.


Beyond scope of model

Likely Emergence:

Pan-Homo common ancestor

About 8 million years ago


Vigilant sharing

Tool Use

Routes to Language

Machiavellian Intelligence

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