Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Eliza Nelson

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Asia Eaton

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Michael Heithaus

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Social, Social Network Analysis, Non-human Primates, Spider Monkey

Date of Defense



This dissertation presents a series of empirical studies which aim to deepen and broaden what is known about social processes in spider monkeys. In recent decades, the burgeoning field of network science has brought a new perspective to many disciplines. Although network science has emerged in multiple content areas (e.g., neuroscience, economics), the application and utility of social network analysis to quantify social processes has seen great advances. Sociality and component processes have been described as mystifying and left many perplexed at the basic question, “What is social?” There is no easy answer to this question but one issue is clear – traditional tools and instruments used to measure social processes may limit our ability to fully understand them. However, social network analysis (SNA) allows for the assessment of social processes in ways that distinguish it from traditional analyses by utilizing network metrics that allow for multiple dimensions of social assessment. In the first study, we apply social network analysis to better understand the relationship between social network structure and affiliative behaviors. Through this work we delineate a spectrum of social risk across behavior types and discuss this in light of current theory. Next, we implement social network analysis to characterize age class differences in social development for the first time in a spider monkey model. Finally, we use a mixed methods approach to assess the relationships between cognition as measured by problem solving skill and social network position. Through this collection of work, we demonstrate social processes viewed through the lens of network science provides valuable insight into the ecology of spider monkeys.



Previously Published In

Boeving, E. R., & Nelson, E. L. (2018). Social Risk Dissociates Social Network Structure across Lateralized Behaviors in Spider Monkeys. Symmetry, 10(9), 390.

Boeving, ER, Rodrigues, MA, Nelson, EL. Network analysis as a tool to understand social development in spider monkeys. Am J Primatol. 2020; 82:e23182.



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