Human evolution and social cognition

Mark Schaller, Justin H. Park and Douglas T. Kenrick

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Human evolution and social cognition

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



Many aspects of human cognition — especially the processes that define the conceptual territory of social cognition — are adapted to the recurrent problems and opportunities posed by these other members of ancestral human populations. So, to understand social cognition fully and deeply, it is useful — perhaps even essential — to employ scientific strategy. First, it is important to identify the set of fitness-relevant ‘problems’ recurrently posed by human social environments. Second, one should employ an evolutionary cost-benefit analysis to deduce plausible cognitive adaptations that would have helped ‘solve’ those problems. When considered in an evolutionary light, human social cognition is not merely one domain of inquiry within the small scientific province of social psychology; it is instead a topic of relevance to any scientist who cares about the evolution and behavioural ecology of mammals in general.

Keywords: human; cognition; social cognition; populations; fitness; problems; environments; social psychology; evolution; mammals

Article.  9063 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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