Evolution of Cognition

Mon Apr 12 09:50:51 EST 1993

In article <erwin.734302497 at trwacs>
erwin at trwacs.fp.trw.com (Harry Erwin) writes:
>My speculative posting on a possible role for sexual selection in the
>evolution of human cognition received (deservedly) a certain amount of
>One point made was that sexual selection for innovativeness and
>craftsmanship should result in sex-linked differences in cognition,
>particularly in art. In bower birds, this is clearly present, and this
>appears not the case in modern Homo sapiens. I plead guilty to this
>charge--it looks like I've been cut by Ockham's razor.
>Another point was that I haven't done the necessary analyses and
>simulation studies to justify my belief that modern human cognition
>could not have evolved under natural selection from standard mammalian
>cognition. Actually here I've done a number of studies, as have others.
>Hines and Bishop showed that learning would perturb the ESS defined by
>natural selection but did not claim that it would destabilize it. Huberman
>and Glance have related results that also suggest that the system would
>usually relax to a fixed point. My son's work came up with similar
>results, even though the ESS could be expected to evolve chaotically if
>the evolution were "intelligent."
>My point is that learning in most mammalian species appears (IMHO) to be
>"calibration." The basic behavioral patterns are biological (genetic) and
>learning calibrates those patterns to the real circumstances of the local
>population. Once calibrated, the system freezes. Innovation and
>experimentation is thus a characteristic of youth, not adulthood. Although
>a degree of skill at planning is seen in many mammals, it tends to be
>short-term. Binford and Diamond both indicate that the archeological
>record seems to indicate that archaic H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis
>show no evidence of an ability to develop complex plans. The stability of
>culture prior to modern H. sapiens also suggests that adults were bound by
>habit and learning in children was basically rote. (Great ape cultures
>should provide insight into this question.) Note that there is evidence
>that selective pressures on children in archaic H. groups were similar to
>the selective pressures on adults (lack of adolescent growth spurt,
>extended pregnancies, early adulthood).
>My point is that innovation as practised by modern H. sapiens has
>different dynamics from learning as seen in other species. It requires
>new mechanisms in the brain. It might be neotenic, but the tendency
>towards stability has to be overcome.
>(I'm thinking on my feet here...) Could there have been a third selective
>process involved in the evolution of innovativeness? One without a link to
>the sex of the individual, but otherwise with a similar tendency towards
>destabilization? The evolution of the adolescent growth spurt may be a
>Back tomorrow.
>Harry Erwin
>Internet: erwin at trwacs.fp.trw.com
>Have found some interesting work...
Sorry about the bandwidth repeat. Your calibration idea reminds me of the
constellation of experience around the archetype as described by C.G. Jung.
He observed a great deal in this "evolution of cognition" you mention, by
exploring the symbols used in modern and isolated "primitive" cultures.
The book _Man and His Symbols_ distills a lot of his findings reported in
his collected works. It all sounds very intersting to me.
Tim Shickley
Temple Univ. Sch. of Med.
INTERNET: shickley at vm.temple.edu

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