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Unformatted text preview: Social intelligence, human intelligence and niche construction Kim Sterelny * Philosophy Program, Research School of the Social Sciences, Australian National University, 0200 Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia and Philosophy Program, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand This paper is about the evolution of hominin intelligence. I agree with defenders of the social intelligence hypothesis in thinking that externalist models of hominin intelligence are not plausible: such models cannot explain the unique cognition and cooperation explosion in our lineage, for changes in the external environment (e.g. increasing environmental unpredictability) affect many lineages. Both the social intelligence hypothesis and the social intelligence–ecological complexity hybrid I outline here are niche construction models. Hominin evolution is hominin response to selective environments that earlier hominins have made. In contrast to social intelligence models, I argue that hominins have both created and responded to a unique foraging mode; a mode that is both social in itself and which has further effects on hominin social environments. In contrast to some social intelligence models, on this view, hominin encounters with their ecological environments continue to have profound selective effects. However, though the ecological environment selects, it does not select on its own. Accidents and their consequences, differential success and failure, result from the combination of the ecological environment an agent faces and the social features that enhance some opportunities and suppress others and that exacerbate some dangers and lessen others. Individuals do not face the ecological filters on their environment alone, but with others, and with the technology, information and misinformation that their social world provides. Keywords: evolution of cooperation; niche construction; social intelligence; division of labour; strong reciprocity 1. THE EXPLANATORY TARGET Our australopithecine ancestors had approximately chimp-sized brains and a technological toolkit that was not much more complex than that of contemporary chimps. Nor is there reason to suppose that their social lives were more complex than those of surviving great apes. Over the next 4.5 Myr, a lot happened. The geographical and ecological range of these primates expanded greatly and diets changed. Hominins depended increasingly on meat and high-value plant foods, and processing food after its acquisition became increasingly important. In particular, cooking detox- ified much plant food, reduced the physical stresses of chewing and released more nutrients ( Wrangham et al ....
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This note was uploaded on 11/09/2010 for the course ANTHRO 111456202 taught by Professor Josephmanson during the Spring '10 term at UCLA.
- Spring '10