Flack, J. C.,Krakauer, D. C.,de Waal, F. B. M.

Conflict management mechanisms have a direct, critical effect on system robustness because they mitigate conflict intensity and help repair damaged relationships. However, robustness mechanisms can also have indirect effects on system integrity by facilitating interactions among components. We explore the indirect role that conflict management mechanisms play in the maintenance of social system robustness, using a perturbation technique to 'knockout' components responsible for effective conflict management. We explore the effects of knockout on pigtailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) social organization, using a captive group of 84 individuals. This system is ideal in addressing this question because there is heterogeneity in performance of conflict management. Consequently, conflict managers can be easily removed without disrupting other control structures. We find that powerful conflict managers are essential in maintaining social order for the benefit of all members of society. We show that knockout of components responsible for conflict management results in system destabilization by significantly increasing mean levels of conflict and aggression, decreasing socio-positive interaction and decreasing the operation of repair mechanisms.