The presence of general intelligence poses a major evolutionary puzzle, which has led to increased interest in its presence in nonhuman animals. The aim of this review is to critically evaluate this question and to explore the implications for current theories about the evolution of cognition. We first review domain-general and domain-specific accounts of human cognition in order to situate attempts to identify general intelligence in nonhuman animals. Recent studies are consistent with the presence of general intelligence in mammals. However, (...) the interpretation of a psychometricgfactor as general intelligence needs to be validated, in particular in primates, and we propose a range of such tests. We then evaluate the implications of general intelligence in nonhuman animals for current theories about its evolution and find support for the cultural intelligence approach, which stresses the critical importance of social inputs during the ontogenetic construction of survival-relevant skills. The presence of general intelligence in nonhumans implies that modular abilities can arise in two ways, primarily through automatic development with fixed content and secondarily through learning and automatization with more variable content. The currently best-supported model, for humans and nonhuman vertebrates alike, thus construes the mind as a mix of skills based on primary and secondary modules. The relative importance of these two components is expected to vary widely among species, and we formulate tests to quantify their strength. (shrink)
The zone of latent solutions hypothesis provides an alternative approach to explaining cultural patterns in primates and many other animals. According to the ZLS hypothesis, non-human great ape cultures consist largely or solely of latent solutions. The current competing hypothesis for ape culture argues instead that at least some of their behavioural or artefact forms are copied through specific social learning mechanisms and that their forms may depend on copying. In contrast, the ape ZLS hypothesis does not require these forms (...) to be copied. Instead, it suggests that several social learning mechanisms help determine the frequency of these behaviours and artefacts within connected individuals. The ZLS hypothesis thus suggests that increases and stabilisations of a particular behaviour’s or artefact’s frequency can derive from socially-mediated form reinnovations. Therefore, and while genes and ecology play important roles as well, according to the ape ZLS hypothesis, apes typically acquire the forms of their behaviours and artefacts individually, but are usually socially induced to do so. The ZLS approach is often criticized—perhaps also because it challenges the current null hypothesis, which instead assumes a requirement of form-copying social learning mechanisms to explain many ape behavioural forms. However, as the ZLS hypothesis is a new approach, with less accumulated literature compared to the current null hypothesis, some confusion is to be expected. Here, we clarify the ZLS approach—also in relation to other competing hypotheses—and address misconceptions and objections. We believe that these clarifications will provide researchers with a coherent theoretical approach and an experimental methodology to examine the necessity of form-copying variants of social learning in apes, humans and other species. (shrink)
Moral behaviour, based on social norms, is commonly regarded as a hallmark of humans. Hitherto, humans are perceived to be the only species possessing social norms and to engage in moral behaviour. There is anecdotal evidence suggesting their presence in chimpanzees, but systematic studies are lacking. Here, we examine the evolution of human social norms and their underlying psychological mechanisms. For this, we distinguish between conventions, cultural social norms and universal social norms. We aim at exploring whether chimpanzees possess evolutionary (...) precursors of universal social norms seen in humans. Chimpanzees exhibit important preconditions for their presence and enforcement: tolerant societies, well-developed social-cognitive skills and empathetic competence. Here, we develop a theoretical framework for recognizing different functional levels of social norms and distinguish them from mere statistical behavioural regularities. Quasi social norms are found where animals behave functionally moral without having moral emotions. In proto social norms, moral emotions might be present but cannot be collectivized due to the absence of a uniquely human psychological trait, i.e. shared intentionality. Human social norms, whether they are universal or cultural, involve moral emotions and are collectivized. We will discuss behaviours in chimpanzees that represent potential evolutionary precursors of human universal social norms, with special focus on social interactions involving infants. We argue that chimpanzee infants occupy a special status within their communities and propose that tolerance towards them might represent a proto social norm. Finally, we discuss possible ways to test this theoretical framework. (shrink)
Language’s intentional nature has been highlighted as a crucial feature distinguishing it from other communication systems. Specifically, language is often thought to depend on highly structured intentional action and mutual mindreading by a communicator and recipient. Whilst similar abilities in animals can shed light on the evolution of intentionality, they remain challenging to detect unambiguously. We revisit animal intentional communication and suggest that progress in identifying analogous capacities has been complicated by (i) the assumption that intentional (that is, voluntary) production (...) of communicative acts requires mental-state attribution, and (ii) variation in approaches investigating communication across sensory modalities. To move forward, we argue that a framework fusing research across modalities and species is required. We structure intentional communication into a series of requirements, each of which can be operationalised, investigated empirically, and must be met for purposive, intentionally communicative acts to be demonstrated. Our unified approach helps elucidate the distribution of animal intentional communication and subsequently serves to clarify what is meant by attributions of intentional communication in animals and humans. (shrink)
Most human societies exhibit a distinct class structure, with an elite, middle classes, and a bottom class, whereas animals form simple dominance hierarchies in which individuals with higher fighting ability do not appear to form coalitions to “oppress” weaker individuals. Here, we extend our model of primate coalitions and find that a division into a bottom class and an upper class is inevitable whenever fitness-enhancing resources, such as food or real estate, are exploitable or tradable and the members of the (...) bottom class cannot easily leave the group. The model predicts that the bottom class has a near flat, low payoff and always comprises at least half the society. The upper class may subdivide into one or more middle class(es), resulting in improved payoff for the topmost members (elite). The model predicts that the bottom class on its own is incapable of mounting effective counter-coalitions against the upper class, except when receiving support from dissatisfied members of the middle class(es). Such counter-coalitions can be prevented by keeping the payoff to the lowest-ranked members of the middle classes (through concessions) well above that of the bottom class. This simple model explains why classes are also absent in nomadic hunter-gatherers and predominate in (though are not limited to) societies that produce and store food. Its results also agree well with various other known features of societies with classes. (shrink)
Heintz & Scott-Phillips propose that the partner choice ecology of our ancestors required Gricean cognitive pragmatics for reputation management, which caused a tendency toward showing and expecting prosociality that subsequently scaffolded language evolution. Here, we suggest a cognitively leaner explanation that is more consistent with comparative data and posits that prosociality and eventually language evolved along with cooperative breeding.
The cultural group selection approach provides a compelling explanation for recent changes in human societies, but has trouble explaining why our ancestors, rather than any other great ape, evolved into a hyper-cooperative niche. The cooperative breeding hypothesis can plug this gap and thus complement CGS, because recent comparative evidence suggests that it promoted proactive prosociality, social transmission, and communication in Pleistocene hominins.
We welcome Tomasello’s new book on the natural history of human morality as an important confirmation of the evolutionary approach, which sees adaptive behaviors and their psychological underpinnings as linked to a species’ socioecology (the package of subsistence, social, mating, and rearing systems). This perspective automatically leads to the conclusion that the basic set of moral preferences is a straightforward human adaptation to the derived cooperative foraging niche of nomadic foragers, which involves a high degree of interdependence. We provide more (...) background information in support of this evolutionary approach, call for work on defining the contents of the innate core of moral preferences it implies, and urge philosophers to pursue its implications more seriously. Tomasello also offers a historical reconstruction, but his scenario is not compatible with recent comparative data showing a surprising overlap with aspects of human morality, nor does it fit the currently best-supported evolutionary scenario of hominin foraging. We offer a better-fitting alternative, but also call for more behavioral work in child development and on nonhuman primates to improve this reconstruction. (shrink)
We make three points. First, even if Finlay et al.'s proposed developmental mechanisms hold, there remains great scope for selection on specific brain structures. Second, the positive covariance among the size of brain structures provides far less support for the proposed developmental mechanisms than Finlay et al. acknowledge. Third, even if the proposed mechanisms are the primary size determinants for most brain structures, these structures should not be considered.
Vorrede | In diesem charakteristischerweise hervorragend recherchierten Beitrag erörtern Kappeler und Fichtel die Konsequenzen sozialer und einkommensbedingter Ungleichheit für die individuelle Gesundheit und die empfundene Einsamkeit aus einer evolutionären Perspektive. Das zentrale Argument der Autoren ist, dass sich die modernen Großgesellschaften, in denen fast alle Menschen heutzutage leben, grundsätzlich von den egalitären Kleingesellschaften unterscheiden, in denen wir evolviert sind und in denen wir bis vor lediglich 20.000 Jahren alle gelebt haben. Diese Zeitspanne war gemäß den meisten Schätzungen viel zu kurz, (...) als dass sich durch die Evolution notwendige Anpassungen in der menschlichen Natur an das Leben in modernen Großgesellschaften hätten etablieren können. (shrink)