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Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture

Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture

Gary Hatfield
Holly Pittman
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 496
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  • Book Info
    Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture
    Book Description:

    Descartes boldly claimed: "I think, therefore I am." But one might well ask: Why do we think? How? When and why did our human ancestors develop language and culture? In other words, what makes the human mind human? Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture offers a comprehensive and scientific investigation of these perennial questions. Fourteen essays bring together the work of archaeologists, cultural and physical anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers, geneticists, a neuroscientist, and an environmental scientist to explore the evolution of the human mind, the brain, and the human capacity for culture. The volume represents and critically engages major theoretical approaches, including Donald's stage theory, Mithen's cathedral model, Tomasello's joint intentionality, and Boyd and Richerson's modeling of the evolution of culture in relation to climate change. No recent publication combines this breadth of evidential and theoretical perspective. The essays range in topic from the macroscopic (the evolution of social cooperation) to the microscopic (examining genetic data to infer evolutions in brain structure and function), and from the ancient (paleoanthropological reconstructions of hominin cognitive abilities) to the modern (including modern hominin's similarities to our primate cousins). Considered together, these essays constitute a fascinating, detailed look at what makes us human.

    eISBN: 978-1-934536-60-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Figures
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Tables
    (pp. IX-X)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. XI-XIV)
  6. Foreword Penn Museum International Research Conferences
    (pp. XV-XVI)

    For more than a century, a core mission of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has been to foster research that leads to new understandings about human culture. For much of the 20th century, this research took the form of worldwide expeditions that brought back both raw data and artifacts whose analysis continues to shed light on early complex societies of the New and Old Worlds. The civilizations of pharonic Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, Greece, Rome, Mexico, Peru, and Native Americans have been represented in galleries that display only the most remarkable of the Penn Museum’s vast holding...

  7. Preface
    (pp. XVII-XX)
    Gary Hatfield and Holly Pittman
  8. 1 Introduction: The Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture
    (pp. 1-44)

    Human beings possess tremendous capacities for passing on attitudes, skills, beliefs, and knowledge to others. These capacities extend not only to obviously human characteristics, such as the possession of syntactically complex languages and the absorption of complex belief systems. They are also present in the ability to imitate, on sight, the pattern of motion in a popular dance step, which sweeps the country in days. Or in the ability silently to discern the intention of a fellow carpenter in a home-improvement project and to move and hold a piece of lumber as needed. Together, these capacities and abilities have allowed...

  9. 2 When Did We Become Human? Evolutionary Perspectives on the Emergence of the Modern Human Mind, Brain, and Culture
    (pp. 45-90)

    One of the most longstanding debates in the field of biological anthropology is when members of our lineage became “human.” There is keen interest in knowing when we evolved the characteristics seen in our species, and which of these features truly makes us distinctive from other primates and especially earlier forms of hominins. Language, culture, tool use, brain size, and bipedalism have all been cited as traits that differentiate modern humans from other primate species. While it was once thought that these traits were uniquely human, we now understand most of them to be elaborations of similar features in other...

  10. 3 What Genetics Can Tell Us about the Origins of the Modern Human Brain
    (pp. 91-104)

    Today genetic methods are so powerful, and genetic databases so informative, that it is now possible to identify genes, and regions of the human genome, that have experienced positive Darwinian selection (i.e., adaptation) during the evolution of modern humans. What is more difficult than identifying the genes that experienced adaptation, is figuring out the basic functions of these genes. And more difficult still is figuring out just what the functional differences were between the ancestral form of a gene and the more adaptive form that replaced it. For adaptive traits that can be studied at the physiological or cellular level,...

  11. 4 The Primate Mind before Tools, Language, and Culture
    (pp. 105-122)

    Beginning with the arrival of the first stone tools, roughly 2.3 million years ago (Semaw 2000), the archaeological record provides a rich source of data from which to reconstruct the evolution of human mind and behavior. Supplementing these historical data, some living monkeys and apes, particularly chimpanzees, make tools (McGrew 1994, Matsuzawa 1994, Yamakoshi 2001) and exhibit a limited form of culture (Whiten et al. 1999), allowing these species to be used as points of comparison when developing theories about human cognitive evolution.

    But what about the period before tools and culture appeared? Regardless of whether they were made by...

  12. 5 Functions of Premotor Cortices: From Motor Control to Social Cognition
    (pp. 123-148)

    The development of fine motor skills and complex action sequences and their cultural transmission by imitation are distinctively human. In the course of human evolution, areas of the brain controlling motor functions have developed to support such distinctively human behaviors as language and the ability to fashion stone tools. A collection of areas known generically as premotor cortices are particularly relevant to understand how the brain controls these sequentially and hierarchically structured actions. The archaeological record provides a sequence of the types of tools used by our successive human ancestors, and modern techniques of neuroimaging allow us to study directly...

  13. 6 The Origins of Human Cooperation from a Developmental and Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 149-168)

    Humans readily help others with their problems, even in the absence of an obvious return-benefit. Humans also pool their efforts in collaborative enterprises to produce outcomes that lie beyond the capabilities of any one individual, such as sailing a ship across the ocean, building belltowers, and forming an army to fight for independence. Various disciplines investigate these phenomena by exploring how cooperation can emerge through natural selection, describing its historical development and its role in economic exchange. In this cross-disciplinary enterprise, psychological research highlights that human cooperation often requires sophisticated cognitive and motivational processes. For instance, in order to help...

  14. 7 Mimesis Theory Re-Examined, Twenty Years after the Fact
    (pp. 169-192)

    This review will cover the current status of the theory of mimesis, and attempt especially to clarify two issues: (1) the very broad nature of the adaptation that resulted in mimetic capacity in hominins, and (2) the particular importance of metacognition—that is, executive and supervisory skills—in the evolution of mimetic capacity and cultural evolution.

    This chapter focuses on one aspect—mimesis—of a comprehensive theory of human cognitive evolution (Donald 1991). A mimetic act is a performance that reflects the perceived event structure of the world. It has three behavioral manifestations: (1) rehearsal of skill, in which the...

  15. 8 The Role of Cooperation in the Evolution of Protolanguage and Language
    (pp. 193-216)

    The most common description of the uniqueness of Homo sapiens is that it is the only extant species with a symbolic language. According to evolutionary theory, there should be some selective advantage that has fostered the development of language among humans. There are many proposals for such an evolutionary force. Some of the major ideas have been that (1) language brings with it the ability to convey information, for example about prey or other food or about dangers of different sorts; (2) language is a result of sexual selection (first proposed by Darwin 1871); (3) language replaces the social grooming...

  16. 9 The Cathedral Model for the Evolution of Human Cognition
    (pp. 217-234)

    In my 1996 book entitled The Prehistory of the Mind I used the analogy of building a cathedral for how the modern mind evolved. More than a decade has passed since this model was proposed during which there has been substantial new research concerning the evolution of the mind. So in this chapter I will reflect on the “cathedral model” with regard to its status as a viable interpretation for human cognitive evolution. To do so, I will initially provide a brief summary of the model and then consider three areas of research and their impact on the model: new...

  17. 10 Cognition, Behavioral Modernity, and the Archaeological Record of the Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic
    (pp. 235-262)

    The study of the evolution of human cognition has a long history in archaeology (see Nowell 2001 for a review) but in the last decade this area of research has often been reframed as a question of “behavioral modernity” (Klein 2000a, Wadley 2001, Bar-Yosef 2002, d’Errico 2003, Henshilwood et al. 2002, Henshilwood and Marean 2003, Shea 2003b, Bower 2005, Hovers and Belfer-Cohen 2006, Zilhão et al. 2006, Zilhão 2007, d’Errico 2007; see also McBrearty and Brooks 2000, Shennan 2001). Some authors are explicitly cognitive in their use of the term “behavioral modernity” while others are not. In either case, it...

  18. 11 Rethinking Paleoanthropology: A World Queerer Than We Supposed
    (pp. 263-302)

    Advances in paleoclimatology and paleoecology are producing an ever more detailed picture of the environments in which our species evolved, helping us to understand the processes by which our large brain and its productions—toolmaking, complex social institutions, language, art, religion—emerged. Our large brain relative to body mass and the extreme elaboration of our cultures differentiate us from our nearest relatives. We achieved our present anatomy and behavioral repertoire very recently. Fossil material attributable to our species goes back perhaps 200,000 years ago (200 kya), by which time the brain of our species and of Neandertals had reached nearly...

  19. 12 Human Behavioral Ecology, Optimality, and Human Action
    (pp. 303-324)

    Among the family of evolutionary approaches to human behavior, human behavioral ecology (HBE) is distinctive in emphasizing the adaptive flexibility of human behavior; work in this tradition assumes that our learning and decision mechanisms equip us to respond successfully to a broad range of environments (Smith and Winterhalder 2003). Human behavioral ecologists build models of human action: fertility decisions, food gathering, the shift from foraging to agriculture, resource sharing. These models typically represent agents as doing the best they can: individuals optimize given the constraints imposed by the conditions under which they act; their needs; and, sometimes, the choices of...

  20. 13 The Distinctively-Human Mind: The Many Pillars of Cumulative Culture
    (pp. 325-346)

    This chapter argues that there are multiple adaptations underlying the distinctiveness of the human mind. Careful analysis of the capacities that are involved in the creation, acquisition, and transmission of culture and cultural products suggests that it is very unlikely that these could be underlain by just one, or even a few, novel cognitive systems. On the contrary, there are at least eight such systems, each of which is largely independent of the others.

    What makes human minds distinctive? The question is ambiguous, depending on the extent of the implied contrast. It might mean, “distinctive in relation to the minds...

  21. 14 Human Culture Is More than Memes and Transmission
    (pp. 347-378)

    In recent years, a particular definition and model of “culture” has become dominant among psychologists, evolutionary biologists, philosophers, primatologists, and evolutionary anthropologists concerned with the evolution of the human mind and human behavior. The underlying concept in this model is the social transmission of information from one individual to another. While this has proven to be a very productive concept, it fails to account for much that is essential to the human way of life. It is my purpose in this chapter to provide an expanded model of culture that includes the process of social transmission but that also accounts...

  22. References Cited
    (pp. 379-464)
  23. Index
    (pp. 465-476)