How the social environment shaped the evolution of mind

Synthese 122 (1-2):3 - 28 (2000)
Abstract
Dominance hierarchies are ubiquitous in the societies of human and non-human animals. Evidence from comparative, developmental, and cognitive psychological investigations is presented that show how social dominance hierarchies shaped the evolution of the human mind, and hence, human social institutions. It is argued that the pressures that arise from living in hierarchical social groups laid a foundation of fundamental concepts and cognitive strategies that are crucial to surviving in social dominance hierarchies. These include recognizing and reasoning transitively about dominance relations, fast-track learning of social norms (permissions, prohibitions, and obligations), detecting violations of social norms (cheating), monitoring reciprocal obligations, and reading the intentions of others.
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