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Keywords:

  • social relationships;
  • Saimiri;
  • stress;
  • hormones;
  • reproduction

Abstract

Primate sociophysiology is an emerging discipline concerned with understanding the proximate mechanisms that contribute to the generation and maintenance of species-typical social systems. Studies of squirrel monkeys illustrate that sociophysiological processes are more varied than is commonly assumed with respect to both the effective social dimensions that influence physiological function and the nature of concomitant physiological effects. For adult squirrel monkeys, a major consequence of social stimulation is altered regulation of pituitary-adrenal, pituitary-gonadal, and autonomic function. In females, socially-induced physiological changes appear to be independent of specific interindividual relationships with other adults, whereas in males, many sociophysiological effects can be understood only when specific relational attributes are considered. In all instances, adult relationships are associated with distinctly different sociophysiological profiles than have been found for the mother-infant relationship and do not conform to the stress/buffering model within which they are often interpreted.