New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution

Oxford University

An interdisciplinary conference focusing on new ideas and discoveries in research on the evolution of human cognition The conference focuses on genetic, developmental, and socio-cultural processes that have played a particularly significant role in the evolution of human cognition, and on uniquely human cognitive achievements in domains such as causal understanding, language, social learning, theory of mind and meta-cognition. The event was supported by All Souls College, The British Academy, Guarantors of Brain, and Magdalen College's Calleva Centre, and took place on 23rd and 24th June 2011.

11 odcinki(-ów)

  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    The Social Brain on the Internet


    In primates and humans alike, the number of social relationships an individual can have is constrained in part by its social cognitive competences and in part by the time available to invest in face-to-face interaction. I will show that time, in particular, has a significant effect on the quality and stability of social relationships. If the quality of a relationship is a function of the time invested in it, then we might expect a technology that allows an individual to cut through the time constraints inherent in face-to-face interaction will allow larger social networks to be maintained. Social networking media on the Internet provide one obvious possibility in this respect. I will review evidence suggesting that the Internet does not (and cannot) help us to widen our social horizons, and will show why. Presented by Robin Dunbar (Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    Why the Hominin Cognitive Niche Was and Is a Crucially Socio-cognitive Niche


    Tooby and deVore argued that hominin evolution hinged on the exploitation of a unique 'cognitive niche'. We propose that a diversity of evidence indicates this was fundamentally a socio-cognitive niche. Analysis of hunter-gatherer ethnologies confirms unprecedented levels of egalitarian behaviour, cooperation and culture, in comparison to other primates and inferred ancestral stages. In conjunction with recent archaeological findings on the evolution of hunting, we use these data to reconstruct socio-cognitive changes in the course of hominin evolution, including joint planning and the impact of language. Precursors to these characteristics are inferred on the basis of recent observational and experimental studies of non-human primates' socio-cognitive abilities including cultural transmission, psychological attributions and understanding the requirements of cooperation. Presented by Andrew Whiten and David Erdal (Psychology, University of St. Andrews, UK).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

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  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    Metacognition and the Social Mind: How Individuals Interact at the Neural Level


    I will review recent research in neuroimaging and computation neuroscience, and present a new paradigm for studying decision making in pairs. Results from this paradigm demonstrate that discussion between the partners is necessary and sufficient for creating an advantage for the group decision and a more accurate picture of the world than can be achieved by either partner alone. I conclude that metacognition - the ability to introspect upon one's own experience and to communicate this to another - is the key to understanding the evolution of human cognition, including consciousness and group decision making. Presented by Chris Frith (Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, UK)
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    Experiencing Language


    The evolutionary relationship between human linguistic capacity and humans' emotional make-up has not, as yet, received focused attention. Was the evolution of language in our lineage possible because early hominines were emotionally different from their ancestors, and, if so, in what ways? Has language altered human emotions? We discuss and develop recent proposals that an important precondition for the evolution of human language was the evolution of social emotions in pre-linguistic humans. We suggest that as language evolved, it altered important aspects of human emotionality, leading to a co-evolutionary feedback between human linguistic ability and human emotions. Presented by Eva Jablonka, Daniel Dor, Simona Ginsburg (Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, Tel Aviv University, Israel).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    Signals, Honesty and the Evolution of Language


    The evolution of language is a long-standing puzzle for many reasons. One is that its very virtues as a system of communication seem to open the door to ruinous free-riding and deception. This paper will locate and partially solve that problem within a framework explaining the evolution of honest signals and informational co-operation in human evolution, and will use that framework to develop a partial picture of language evolution. Presented by Kim Sterenly (Philosophy, Australian National University).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    Embodiment: Taking Sociality Seriously


    A very wise person of our acquaintance once said, 'Read old books to get new ideas'. Here, we pursue the ideas presented in old books by Lev Vygotsky and George Herbert Mead as a means to account for the differences in social life between human and non-human primates and, by extension, their cognition. We consider the contrasting perspectives of Vygotsky and Mead on the links between thought and language, and relate these to subsequent developments in the study of animal cognition, and the emergence of the fields of embodied and distributed cognition. We then use this synthesis to argue that, as Wundt originally suggested, the study of social life must be fundamentally social and situated, and cannot be a laboratory endeavour focused solely on processes within individuals. We use developments in social network analysis (specifically a new formalisation of social networks, which can be presented as multi-dimensional mathematical objects, 'tensors') to explore the possibilities of a new approach to comparative social cognition. This approach recognizes that sociality and behaviour are constitutive of cognition and not simply its visible manifestation, and emphasizes that there is no such thing as a social brain in isolation, but a complex nexus of brain, body and world. Presented by Louise Barrett, Peter Henzi and David Lusseau (Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Canada).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    Cortico-cerebellar Evolution and the Distributed Neural Basis of Cognition


    Biologists interested in cognitive evolution have focussed on the dramatic expansion of the forebrain, particularly the neocortex, in lineages such as primates. Another structure, however - the cerebellum - contains four to five times more neurons than the neocortex, is massively and reciprocally inter-connected with it via intermediate nuclei, has complex cognitive and learning functions, and yet has been largely ignored in accounts of cognitive evolution. This talk explores the correlated evolution and ontogeny of neocortex, cerebellum and associated structures and the implications of such patterns for understanding the neural basis of cognition. Consistent with the idea of embodied cognition, brain size is associated with specific sensory-motor specializations. The results emphasize the importance of considering how individual brain regions are embedded within a neural architecture, and potentially reconcile adaptationist and associationist perspectives as applied, for example, to mirror neurons. Presented by Robert Barton (Anthropology, Durham University, UK).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    A New Comparative Psychology


    In their classic 1969 paper Hodos and Campbell bemoaned the absence of appropriate evolutionary theory in comparative psychology. In this talk I will argue that despite the advent of Evolutionary Psychology the situation has changed only a little today. In fact, some Evolutionary Psychologists go so far as to argue that comparative analyses are of little importance. I will oppose this view and outline how modern Bayesian phylogenetics can provide a framework for answering questions about the evolution of cognition and culture. Presented by Russell Gray (Psychology, University of Auckland, NZ).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    The Mystery of Cumulative Culture


    Human demographic and ecological success is frequently attributed to our capacity for cumulative culture, which allows human knowledge and technology to build up and improve over time. Yet it remains a mystery why other animals might possess socially learned traditions but lack this capacity for cumulative cultural knowledge gain. Nor is it immediately apparent what cognitive, social or demographic factors are necessary for accumulation to occur. Here I explore the factors that led to the evolution of the human cultural capability, drawing on a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. I will present insights from the social learning strategies tournament, and comparative statistical analyses of primate social learning, which together imply that there may have been selection for increasing reliance on social learning, and for increasingly efficient (including higher fidelity) forms of copying, in the primate lineage leading to humans. I will go on to describe mathematical cultural evolution models that suggest that higher fidelity cultural transmission increases the longevity and amount of cultural traits, and that this in turn promotes cumulative cultural learning. I will move on to describe a mathematical model of the evolution of teaching, which is a mechanism for high-fidelity information transmission, which finds that teaching is more likely to evolve in a cumulative, compared to a non-cumulative, cultural learning context, implying that teaching and cumulative culture may have coevolved. Finally, I will present the findings of an experimental study of cumulative cultural learning involving human children, chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys, which implicates specific cognitive factors as central to cumulative learning, including imitation, teaching, language and prosocial behaviour. Presented by Kevin Laland (Biology, University of St Andrews, UK).
  • New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution podkast

    Cultural Inheritance of Cultural Learning


    It is widely acknowledged that the cumulative cultural inheritance of technological skills and social practices has played a major role in shaping the ways of life of modern humans. The term 'cultural learning' refers to the psychological processes that make cultural inheritance possible. Curiously, even those researchers who have been most influential in demonstrating the importance of cultural inheritance emphasise that cultural learning depends on gene-based psychological adaptations. Like Evolutionary Psychologists, they assume that cultural learning is made possible by genetically-evolved, human-specific and domain-specific cognitive processes. I will suggest that these assumptions are not supported by recent research on social learning and imitation, social decision-making, and social motivation. This research raises the possibility that many processes of cultural learning are themselves culturally inherited. It may not only be the grist but also the mills of cultural inheritance that are acquired through social interaction in the course of ontogeny. Presented by Cecilia Heyes (All Souls College, University of Oxford, UK).

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