In many group-living animals, within-group associations are determined by familiarity, i.e. familiar individuals, independent of genetic relatedness, preferentially associate with each other. The ultimate causes of this behaviour are poorly understood and rigorous documentation of its adaptive significance is scarce. Limited attention theory states that focusing on a given task has interrelated cognitive, behavioural and physiological costs with respect to the attention paid to other tasks. In multiple signal environments attention has thus to be shared among signals. Assuming that familiar neighbours require less attention than unfamiliar ones, associating with familiar individuals should increase the efficiency in other tasks and ultimately increase fitness. We tested this prediction in adult females of the group-living, plant-inhabiting predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis. We evaluated the influence of social familiarity on within-group association behaviour, activity, predation and reproduction. In mixed groups (familiar and unfamiliar), familiar predator females preferentially associated with each other. In pure groups (either familiar or unfamiliar), familiar predator females produced more eggs than unfamiliar females at similar predation rates. Higher egg production was correlated with lower activity levels, indicating decreased restlessness. In light of limited attention theory, we argue that the ability to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar individuals and preferential association with familiar individuals confers a selective advantage because familiar social environments are cognitively and physiologically less taxing than unfamiliar social environments.