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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Evolution of cognition

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Abstract Renewed interest in the field of comparative cognition over the past 30 years has led to a renaissance in our thinking of how cognition evolved. Here, we review historical and comparative approaches to the study of psychological evolution, focusing on cognitive differences based on evolutionary divergence, but also cognitive similarities based on evolutionary convergence. Both approaches have contributed to major theories of cognitive evolution in humans and non‐human animals. As a result, not only have we furthered our understanding of the evolution of the human mind and its unique attributes, but we have also identified complex cognitive capacities in a few large‐brained species, evolved from solving social and ecological challenges requiring a flexible mind. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 621–633 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.144 This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition

Relative brain size across birds and mammals. Graph displaying the relationship between (log) body weight and (log) brain volume across various birds and mammals (e.g. corvids, parrots, apes, dolphins, Australopithecus and modern Homo sapiens, pigeons, and rats). Data taken from various sources.

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Phylogenetic trees and evolutionary principles. Schematic representation of a phylogenetic tree with relatively large‐brained vertebrates—corvids, parrots, elephants, cetaceans, and apes. The circles represent the types of evolutionary principle that may govern the evolution of cognition.14 Homology (black circle) refers to evolution of similar traits in closely related species with a common ancestor (e.g., African elephant and Indian elephant). Parallelism (light gray circle) refers to the evolution of similar traits in relatively closely related species (e.g., corvids and parrots). Divergence (white circle) refers to the evolution of dissimilar traits by distantly related species (e.g., elephants and apes). Reversal (dark gray circle and hatched circle) refers to the evolution of a trait seen in a descendant that recovers features of the common ancestor (e.g., cetaceans). Convergence refers to the evolution of similar traits in distantly related species (e.g., apes and corvids). Chimpanzee, elephant, and dolphin brains from Comparative Mammalian Brain Collection (brainmuseum.org). Parrot brain provided by Andrew Iwaniuk (University of Lethbridge). Corvid brain from own collection.

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