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Darwin's Unfinished Symphony$
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Kevin N. Laland

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691182810

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691182810.001.0001

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The Evolution of Intelligence

The Evolution of Intelligence

(p.123) Chapter 6 The Evolution of Intelligence
Darwin's Unfinished Symphony

Kevin N. Laland

Princeton University Press

This chapter fleshes out the “cultural drive” hypothesis proposed by eminent scientist Allan Wilson. It first considers the question of exactly how social learning could drive brain evolution when some animals managed to copy with tiny brains. Greater specification of the feedback mechanism by which cultural processes fostered the evolution of cognition was required if the argument was to be compelling. Second, the chapter looks at how many variables (e.g., diet, social complexity, latitude) had been shown to be associated with brain size in primates. In order to evaluate the hypothesis that cultural processes had played a particularly central role in the evolution of the human mind, whether social learning was a genuine cause of brain evolution must first be established. Third, the chapter argues that talk of increases in “brain size” is rather simplistic. The brain is a complex organ with extensive substructure, and with particular features and circuitry known to be important to specific biological functions. How the brain had changed over evolutionary time, and whether the observed changes in size and structure were consistent with what the cultural drive hypothesis predicted, also had to be established.

Keywords:   cultural drive, Allan Wilson, cultural processes, cognition, brain size, brain evolution, social learning

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