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a201-11f-19-EvolutionOfIntelligence

a201-11f-19-EvolutionOfIntelligence - Introduction to...

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Introduction to Biological Anthropology: Notes 19 Evolution of primate intelligence Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Primates are relatively intelligent compared to other animals - As we saw earlier, primates tend to have large brains relative to their body size - humans are an extreme case, even among primates - So why are primates, and especially humans, so smart? - First, what do we mean by intelligence? - this is a slippery issue, as any psychology student will tell you - it is more than just complex behavior - many complex behaviors among animals do not impress us as particularly intelligent - for example, we don’t think that homing pigeons are particularly smart, in spite of their ability to find their way home from distant, unknown places - presumably, intelligence involves flexible behavior, the ability to solve novel problems - Intelligence presumably increased in many steps - Changing with each evolutionary split that eventually led to us - we shouldn’t expect just a single explanation for human intelligence - instead, we should expect that different processes may have been involved at different stages - each relevant to the particular kind of creature involved in that evolutionary change - 1. a non-primate mammal species became the first, strepsirrhine-like primate species - this change happened in small, rodent-like, nocturnal animals - why would intelligence have improved their reproductive success more than it does for squirrels, opossums, or other similar animals? - 2. a strepsirrhine-like primate species became a haplorrhine species - this change happened in larger, smarter, arboreal, diurnal animals… why? - 3. a haplorrhine species became a hominine (a great ape) - this change happened in still larger, still smarter animals… why? - This “step” actually lumps quite a few potentially separate steps - 4. a hominine species became a hominin (us) - we’ll leave this change for later - again: each step in intelligence could have been for a different reason - This only looks like a continuous increase in intelligence because we are looking backwards from our endpoint - At each branch, one side increased intelligence, and the other not so much, or not at all - Naturally, if you pick the more-intelligent side of each split, you get to the most intelligent of the many living species - But all the others have been evolving for just as long - There is no goal of increasing intelligence; we are just the result of a bunch of increases - that happened for probably various reasons - at various times - among different kinds of animals
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Intro to Biological Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Evolution of intelligence p. 2 - Let’s look at a bunch of processes that probably contributed to increasing intelligence in primates at one point or another - each of these processes is supported by some evidence for some kinds of primates, or some points in the evolution of our ancestors - and each probably did NOT apply to some other points in the evolution of our ancestors - One process: selection acting on life history strategies - Life history theory
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