Friday, May 14, 2010

Pinker on the Coevolution of Intelligence, Sociality, and Language

In a special issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol. 107, suppl. 2, May 11, 2010, pp. 8993-8999) devoted to issues relating to evolution and the human condition, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has a very intriguing article that offers up a testable theory that "the human mind..., like other complex organs, owes its origin and design to natural selection." Based on cognitive science and psychology, Pinker theorizes that "humans evolved to specialize in the cognitive niche, which is defined by: reasoning about the causal structure of the world, cooperating with other individuals, and sharing that knowledge and negotiating those agreements via language. This triad of adaptations coevolved with one another and with life-history and sexual traits such as enhanced parental investment from both sexes and multiple generations, longer childhoods and lifespans, complex sexuality, and the accumulation of local knowledge and social conventions in distinct cultures."

You can read the full text of the article here (ungated).

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