Working Group

How does cognition evolve?

PI(s): Charles Nunn (University of California-Berkeley)
Brian Hare
Start Date: 1-Mar-2007
End Date: 28-Feb-2009
Keywords: comparative methods, sociality, neurobiology, natural selection, life histories

Why do some species make and use tools while others do not? Why are some animals able to learn from each other socially, while others do not exhibit this ability? Does food storage require special memory skills, and why have these abilities evolved in some lineages but not in others? While comparative psychologists have discovered significant differences in the types of problems that animals solve and the ways in which they solve them, relatively little effort has been devoted to uncovering the evolutionary processes by which differences in cognition evolve. More generally, we can ask: Are there ecological or life history traits that predict differences in problem solving ability and point to the selection pressures that shape cognition? Our NESCent working group will unite comparative psychology with advances in evolutionary methods. This goal will be achieved through analyses by the group and by providing a roadmap for evolutionary-driven data collection in future research. Major output from our group will include (i) synthesis of hypotheses for cognitive evolution; (ii) initial tests of these hypotheses using available data and evolutionary methods, and (iii) identification of species for future study. Thus, our NESCent workshop will target a fundamental biological question â€" the evolution of the mind.

Related products