Cooperative feeding and breeding, and the evolution of executive control

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Abstract

Dubreuil (Biol Phil 25:53–73, 2010b, this journal) argues that modern-like cognitive abilities for inhibitory control and goal maintenance most likely evolved in Homo heidelbergensis, much before the evolution of oft-cited modern traits, such as symbolism and art. Dubreuil’s argument proceeds in two steps. First, he identifies two behavioral traits that are supposed to be indicative of the presence of a capacity for inhibition and goal maintenance: cooperative feeding and cooperative breeding. Next, he tries to show that these behavioral traits most likely emerged in Homo heidelbergensis. In this paper, I show that neither of these steps are warranted in light of current scientific evidence, and thus, that the evolutionary background of human executive functions, such as inhibition and goal maintenance, remains obscure. Nonetheless, I suggest that cooperative breeding might mark a crucial step in the evolution of our species: its early emergence in Homo erectus might have favored a social intelligence that was required to get modernity really off the ground in Homo sapiens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-124
Number of pages10
JournalBiology & Philosophy
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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