Chapter

Human cognitive evolution

Richard W Byrne

in The Descent of Mind

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780192632593
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191670497 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192632593.003.0004
Human cognitive evolution

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This chapter examines the current evidence of intellectual skills in non-human primates for what their distribution across species shows about the evolutionary history of cognition. At the same time, it considers the theories of how this historical trajectory came about. It argues that the evidence indicates that several different selection pressures were crucial at different points in early human ancestry, so that the modern mind passed through successive stages, with the last changes building upon past adaptations. On the interpretation developed in the chapter, the cognitive ‘distance’ between the abilities of modern humans and those of the last common ancestor shared with a living ape is considerably smaller than in other recent formulations. The selective pressures to which hominid ancestors were exposed would have very different effects on the cognition of monkeys and apes. This chapter considers as an analogy the parallel changes that occurred in locomotion.

Keywords: intellectual skills; non-human primates; cognition; modern mind; ape; monkeys; locomotion; cognitive distance; last common ancestor

Chapter.  9188 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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