The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature

At once a pioneering study of evolution and an accessible and lively reading experience, The Mating Mind marks the arrival of a prescient and provocative new science writer. Psychologist Geoffrey Miller offers the most convincing–and radical–explanation for how and why the human mind evolved.

Consciousness, morality, creativity, language, and art: these are the traits that make us human. Scientists have traditionally explained these qualities as merely a side effect of surplus brain size, but Miller argues that they were sexual attractors, not side effects. He bases his argument on Darwin’ s theory of sexual selection, which until now has played second fiddle to Darwin’ s theory of natural selection, and draws on ideas and research from a wide range of fields, including psychology, economics, history, and pop culture. Witty, powerfully argued, and continually thought-provoking, The Mating Mind is a landmark in our understanding of our own species.

Read

Advertisements
Posted in Evolution, Human evolution, Mating | Tagged , ,

The Evolution of Human Cooperation

How do people living in small groups without money, markets, police and rigid social classes develop norms of economic and social cooperation that are sustainable over time? This book addresses this fundamental question and explains the origin, structure and spread of stateless societies. Using insights from game theory, ethnography and archaeology, Stanish shows how ritual – broadly defined – is the key. Ritual practices encode elaborate rules of behavior and are ingenious mechanisms of organizing society in the absence of coercive states. As well as asking why and how people choose to co-operate, Stanish also provides the theoretical framework to understand this collective action problem. He goes on to highlight the evolution of cooperation with ethnographic and archaeological data from around of the world. Merging evolutionary game theory concepts with cultural evolutionary theory, this book will appeal to those seeking a transdisciplinary approach to one of the greatest problems in human evolution.

Read

Posted in Evolution, Human cooperation | Tagged ,

A Handbook on Evolutionary Art and Music

Art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world. Leonardo da Vinci Artistic behavior is one of the most valued qualities of the human mind. Although artistic manifestations vary from culture to culture, dedication to artistic tasks is common to all. In other words, the artistic behavior is a universal trait of the human species. The current, Western definition of art is relatively new. However, a dication to artistic endeavors — such as the embellishment of tools, body – ornamentation, or gathering of unusual, arguably aesthetic, objects — can be traced back to the origins of humanity. That is, art is ever-present in human history and prehistory. Art and science share a long and enduring relationship. The best-known- ample of the exploration of this relationship is probably the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Somewhere in the 19th-century art and science grew apart, but the cross-transfer of concepts between the two domains continued to exist. Currently, albeit the need for specialization, there is a growing interest in the exploration of the connections between art and science.

Read

Posted in Art, Evolution, Music | Tagged , ,

Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design

This book constitutes the refereed proceedings of the First International Conference on Evo-Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design, EvoMUSART 2012, held in Málaga, Spain, in April 2012, co-located with the Evo* 2012 events EuroGP, EvoCOP, EvoBIO, and EvoApplications. Due to its significant growth in the last 10 years, this 10th EvoMUSART event has become an Evo* conference in 2012. The 15 revised full papers and 5 poster papers presented were carefully reviewed and selected from 43 submissions. They cover a wide range of topics reflecting the current state of research in the field, including theory, generation, computer-aided creativity, computational creativity, and automation.

Read

Posted in Art, Evolution, Music | Tagged , ,

Time and Memory in Indigenous Amazonia: Anthropological Perspectives

These groundbreaking essays by internationally renowned anthropologists advance a simple argument–that native Amazonian societies are highly dynamic. Change and transformation define the indigenous history of the Amazon from before European conquest to the present. Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork and firsthand analysis of indigenous history, this collection examines the concepts of time and change as they played out in areas ranging from religion, cosmology, and mortuary practices to attitudes toward ethnic difference and the treatment of animals. Without imposing traditionally Western notions of what “time” and “change” mean, the collection looks at how native Amazonians experienced forms of cultural memory and at how their narratives of the past helped construct their sense of the present and, inevitably, their own identity. The volume offers some of the most interesting and nuanced discussions to date on Amazonian conceptualizations of temporality and change.

Read

Posted in Indigenous culture, Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous people, Indigenous psychology | Tagged , , ,

Evolutionary Origins of Morality

The aim of this contribution is to explore the origins of moral behavior and its underlying moral preferences and intuitions from an evolutionary perspective. Such a perspective encompasses both the ultimate, adaptive function of morality in our own species, as well as the phylogenetic distribution of morality and its key elements across primates. First, with regard to the ultimate function, we argue that human moral preferences are best construed as adaptations to the affordances of the fundamentally interdependent hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our hominin ancestors. Second, with regard to the phylogenetic origin, we show that even though full-blown human morality is unique to humans, several of its key elements are not. Furthermore, a review of evidence from non-human primates regarding prosocial concern, conformity, and the potential presence of universal, biologically anchored and arbitrary cultural norms shows that these elements of morality are not distributed evenly across primate species. This suggests that they have evolved along separate evolutionary trajectories. In particular, the element of prosocial concern most likely evolved in the context of shared infant care, which can be found in humans and some New World monkeys. Strikingly, many if not all of the elements of morality found in non-human primates are only evident in individualistic or dyadic contexts, but not as third-party reactions by truly uninvolved bystanders. We discuss several potential explanations for the unique presence of a systematic third-party perspective in humans, but focus particularly on mentalizing ability and language. Whereas both play an important role in present day, full-blown human morality, it appears unlikely that they played a causal role for the original emergence of morality. Rather, we suggest that the most plausible scenario to date is that human morality emerged because our hominin ancestors, equipped on the one hand with large and powerful brains inherited from their ape-like ancestor, and on the other hand with strong prosocial concern as a result of cooperative breeding, could evolve into an ever more interdependent social niche.

Read

Posted in Evolution, Moral | Tagged ,

The power of culture: acculturation and language use in bilinguals

This paper investigates the extent of second language (L2) use in four cognitive domains including mental calculation, planning (action plans), note-taking, and shopping lists. Participants include 149 highly educated L2-competent sequential Polish–English bilinguals who relocated to the UK1 in early adulthood, and underwent processes of acculturation. The independent variables in this study include acculturation level, social network profile, predicted future domicile, and length of residence. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Participants completed an online questionnaire and 14 were interviewed by the researcher. The study included the Complementarity Principle (CP) into the operationalisation and measurement of language use in bilinguals (Grosjean, 2010). The results show that acculturation level, social network profile, and predicted future domicile are strong predictors of the extent of L2 use in cognitive domains. Effects of context-specificity and language-dependence were also found, the latter specifically in the domain of mental calculation.

Read

Posted in Acculturation, Culture, Language | Tagged , ,

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? In Sapiens, Professor Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical—and sometimes devastating—breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology, and economics, and incorporating full-color illustrations throughout the text, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behavior from the legacy of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? Bold, wide-ranging, and provocative, Sapiens integrates history and science to challenge everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our heritage…and our future.

Read

Read also: Why Humans Prevail

What explains the Rise of Humans

Posted in Evolution, Humans, Sapiens | Tagged , ,

The deep roots of Writing

Was writing invented for accounting and administration or did it evolve from religious movements, sorcery, and dreams?

Recent scholars of the history of writing describe what was first and foremost an administrative tool. According to their ‘administrative hypothesis’, writing was invented so that early states could track people, land and economic production, and elites could sustain their power. Along the way (their argument goes) writing became flexible enough, in how it captured spoken language, to be used for poetry and letters and, eventually, word games such as Mad Libs and fortune cookies.

Read

Posted in Writing | Tagged

On Tribal Society

The concept of ‘tribal society’ is one of the most prominent and popular ‘anthropological’ notions of our time, yet within western social and cultural anthropology it has been largely abandoned as a sociological category. Although the origin of the word was rooted in the ancient Roman tribus, the modern concept of tribe emerged in the era of Euroamerican colonial expansion. It became the standard term for the social units of peoples considered primitive by the colonists, and for those thought to be uncivilized in historical accounts of antiquity. In the nineteenth century, the term tribe was woven into the theories of primitive society governed by the principles of ‘kinship’ proposed by the emerging social sciences, including the anthropology of Morgan and the sociology of Durkheim. This evolutionist thinking remained central to anthropology throughout most of the twentieth century, but in the post-colonial era of the discipline, more and more doubts were raised as to the usefulness of both the category ‘tribe’, and the particular models of kinship society that had been proposed for it. By the beginning of this century ‘the tribe’ had been widely discredited as an analytical term outside some specialized fields such as theories of early state formation. It is now commonly considered an ethnographic, rather than an analytical, term by Western-trained social and cultural anthropologists; a feature of the public culture studied, and reflecting the word’s popularization and colonial heritage.

Read

Posted in Tribe | Tagged