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Teaching Guide
Representing Social Networks
Understanding Travel Routes
Speaking Chimp
Representing Social Networks
Image of two chimps

In Chimps Getting Along , you learned about the social interactions between chimps. Like human interactions, some are friendly and others are unfriendly. In some cases, a preferred distance is established among members of the group. Based upon both this distance and the frequency of interaction, behaviorists can construct an understanding of the social networking within the group.

Through field studies, scientists observe and record the nature of such social interactions. Once recorded, this information can be displayed using traditional tables with information placed within the table's cells. Other methods of display include graphics that operationally define some of the quantities being studied.

Take a look at the social network diagram below. It shows the relationship of our central chimp character, Bonzo, to his community. The circles represent other chimps within the group. The larger the circle, the greater the time spent socializing with Bonzo. The position of an individual circle within the diagram represents the type of relationship this chimp maintains with Bonzo (friendly, tense, neutral, unfriendly).

Note to educators


This activity page will offer:

  • an introduction to social network representation
  • experience with Jane Goodall's field study methods
  • an opportunity to analyze a social network diagram
  • a chance to observe and record personal social interactions


  • Social network diagram (as drawn below)
  • Drawing compass
  • Paper and pencil

Social Diagram


  1. Examine the examples presented below for more information on how to read this chart.
  2. Examine the circular diagram that represents social networks of Bonzo and his community.
  3. Bonzo is a male. How many total males are in this community? How many females are in this community?
  4. Which animal had the most social interaction with Bonzo?
  5. What was the nature of Coco's interaction with Bonzo?
  6. Which animal was the most unfriendly to Bonzo?
  7. Which gender had more interactions with Bonzo?
  8. Which two animals had the least social interaction with Bonzo?
  9. Which was the friendliest female? The least friendly female?

Diagram with instructions Diagram with instructions
Diagram with instructions Diagram with instructions

PART 2 - Drawing Your Own Social Network

  1. Select a popular book, film, or TV show. Identify the main character and define the social interaction that character has with others (friendly, tense, etc.) and the relative time spent in socializing with them.
  2. Use a compass to draw a grid of concentric circles upon which you'll represent this social network. Place the main character's name at the center of this pattern.
  3. Use a drawing compass to sketch that subject's social network onto this grid.

Compare and contrast the social networks created by your classmates. How are they similar? How are they different? Is there a pattern? What might account for the differences? How might the amount of time watching a TV show influence the complexity of the observed social network? Explain.

Turn on the television and you're likely find a program about young people on some sort of challenge or quest. Often, we learn more about the group's social interactions then the actual challenge they face. Suppose chimpanzees were able to talk and communicate to humans about their social relationships with other chimps. What would they say? Here's your chance for a little creative writing and a great deal of fun. Script out a show about a group of chimps living together and sharing their social trials and tribulations. With your instructor's approval, perform and videotape this project.

As you've seen, chimpanzees can resolve conflicts by making deals. This peace-making strategy is not limited to our primate relatives. Humans strike deals all of the time. Part One - Think about the last deal that you made with friends or family to resolve a conflict. Describe this personal conflict resolution. Part Two - Think of a global area of strife. Describe any type of deal that is offered to help bring peace to war torn areas.

Use a drawing compass to create another social network grid. This time, don't represent individuals on the graphic. Instead, use countries. Replace the male/female division of the graphic with developed and undeveloped country status. Place the United States at the center of this diagram. Then, populate the grid with at least a dozen other countries. Using your knowledge of world events, place these countries in circles (relative to their interactions with the US) in parts of the gird that best show their relationship to the US.


Jane Goodall -- in her own words
Read this motivating and engaging interview with Jane Goodall

Chimps in the Wild Show Stirrings of Culture

A rich and extensive site on chimps and culture.

Chimpanzee Information
An excellent resource on chimpanzees. Includes video clips.


The activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio, a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound" (Sterling Publishing Co., NY).

Academic Advisors for this Guide:

Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools, Wayland, MA
Suzanne Panico, Science Department, Fenway High School, Boston, MA
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School, Wayland, MA

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