Emerging Levels of Consciousness in Early Human Development

Katherine Nelson

in The Missing Link in Cognition

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780195161564
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199848386 | DOI:
Emerging Levels of Consciousness in Early Human Development

Show Summary Details


The chapter distinguishes between two types of intelligence in human and nonhuman primates. Psychology is the only life science that has yet to assimilate the theory of evolution. During the last thirty years, much evidence has accumulated that animals can perform complicated tasks that cannot be explained by the principles of conditioning and that do not rise to the level of language. The chapter concludes that the gap between animal and human intelligence is less mysterious once the significance of self-recognizing consciousness is viewed as a critical step in the evolution of human intelligence. It shows how natural selection can provide a plausible explanation of the necessary conditions for the origin of language. Since Descartes, language has been the main basis for distinguishing between human and nonhuman animals. However before language evolved, our ancestors had to develop nonverbal skills for reading another individual's mind.

Keywords: psychology; principles of conditioning; animals; human intelligence; natural selection; origin of language; Descartes; language

Chapter.  11450 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.