Social network analysis has become a prominent tool to study animal social life, and there is an increasing need to develop new systems to collect social information automatically, systematically, and reliably. Here we explore the use of a freely accessible Automated Learning Device for Monkeys (ALDM) to collect such social information on a group of 22 captive baboons (Papio papio). We compared the social network obtained from the co-presence of the baboons in ten ALDM testing booths to the social network obtained through standard behavioral observation techniques. The results show that the co-presence network accurately reflects the social organization of the group, and also indicate under which conditions the co-presence network is most informative. In particular, the best correlation between the two networks was obtained with a minimum of 40 days of computer records and for individuals with at least 500 records per day. We also show through random permutation tests that the observed correlations go beyond what would be observed by simple synchronous activity, to reflect a preferential choice of closely located testing booths. The use of automatized cognitive testing therefore presents a new way of obtaining a large and regular amount of social information that is necessary to develop social network analysis. It also opens the possibility of studying dynamic changes in network structure with time and in relation to the cognitive performance of individuals.
Keywords: Animal behaviour; Baboon; Computerised testing; Social cognition.