Re: Cognition and Evolution

From: Fletcher, Emma (
Date: Sun May 26 1996 - 21:19:12 BST


Cognition obviously has to be explained by evolution: as what other
source could have given rise to such a capacity? Within the course of
evolution there also had to be a point at which mental processing, or
cognition, arose. cognition may occur to varying degrees i.e. it may be
complex or simple, or indeed at any level in between. The development
of these unconscious mechanisms would in general have been gradual; in
step with structural changes in the brain. However certain cognitive
elements, such as language, quite possibly would have been acquired
without gradual adaption. (M. Donald)

It is clear that the organisms with a cognitive capacity must, at some
point in time, have been placed at a selective advantage. Surely
evolution is not blind to these processes which must heighten the
organism's mental capacity?

Although the development of cognition is founded in the individual's
genealogy, Donald stresses the importance of social and cultural
interaction; and thus the influence of the environment upon cognitive
development. Donald suggests human cognitive ability was heightened by
improvement in motor skills, enabling mime- like communication. Lexical
invention eliminated the short comings of this method, such as the
inability to mime abstract thoughts. Donald further speculates that
such social interaction encouraged narrative thought, and enhanced
processing mechanisms.

Evolution must explain cognition, as ultimately evolution must have
installed in man the unconscious mental processing mechanism which
defines mankind's cognitive ability.

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