Monday, November 19, 2007

Evolutionary Metaphysics V

So this is my last post about “Baboon Metaphysics” and what we get if we try to combine it with some other lines of research. Now which steps were necessary for the evolution of the human mind and language, and in which order?
As a starter, our LCAs with chimpanzees should have exhibited or later evolved the following traits:

1 A rudimentary Theory-of-Mind and a conceptual system which enabled them to form multimodal mental-representations had to be present (Cheney & Seyfarth 2007, Barsalou 2005, Gil-da-Costa et al. 2004)

2a enhanced displaced conceptual control somehow evolved, probably due to prefrontal enlargement, resulting in higher frontal control over neural processes (Barsalou 2005, Deacon 1998, Miller et al. 2002, Rilling 2006)

2b enhanced ToM-abilities, probably influenced by greater frontal control, but also due to some elaboration of an existing mirror neuron system (which is present, for example in maqaques) which then was integrated into a higher order system together with cortical midline structures responsible for social and self-evaluation and possibly other information structures, forming the ‘social network.’ (Cheney & Seyfarth 2007, Uddin et al. 2007, Wheatley et al. 2007, Barsalou in press a, Rizzolatti & Craighero 2004)

3. Greater social and cultural complexity paired with the motivation to cooperate and share mental states with others (Tomasello et al. 2005, Herrmann et al. 2007), possibly co evolutionary influences of social complexity, theory of mind (Dunbar 1998, Dunbar & Shultz 2007) as well as technological advances (Reader and Laland 2002, Reader 2003) and brain expansion.

4. higher ability of displaced, goal-directed an planning simulation of physical categories (physical stance, folk physics) functional categories (design stance, folk biology, mechanics) and intentional categories (intentional stance, folk psychology, ToM) aiding survival and reproductive success trough comprehensive prediction in dangerous environments and socially complex groups (Dennett 1987, Poirier et al. 2005, Tooby & DeVore 1987, Ryder & Favorov 2001)

5. Evolution of extensive symbolic capacities and ‘protolanguage’(which I haven’t addressed here) aided among other factors by displaced frontal control and other selective pressures such as the need to communicate displaced information, share intentions and cooperate, foraging, competition, sexual selection such as display of genetic fitness, establishment of trust, etc. etc. (Deacon 1998, Bickerton 2006, Jackendoff 2002, Pinker 1994, Tomasello et al. 2005, Desalles 2007, Franks and Rigby 2002).

6. Further enhancement of symbol-usage through interactions between language and embodied simulation and ‘symbolic theft’ (embodied-experience to language mapping) (Barsalou in press b, Cangelosi et al. 2002)

7. Evolutionary/cultural feedbacks from language to the conceptual system (Lupyan 2006, Burling 2005, Barsalou 2005, in press a) and further influence of metaphorical structure to language (Lakoff and Johnson, 1987, 1999). The ability to blend mental spaces together and form what-if structures and envision technological/cultural innovations, and goal-directed actions (Turner 2003, Miller et al. 2002,Cheney and Seyfarth 2007) Cheney & Seyfarth write that if you search for what-if on Google you’ll get about 150,000,000 hits, which as they say, might be too much of a good thing.

Oh yeah, and mirror neurons also possibly played a rule in language evolution (Arbib 2005). And I didn’t say anything about syntactic/grammatical evolution (Jackendoff 2002) And I forgot recursion (Hauser et al. 2002) as well. And as almost everyone else I’m sure the Baldwin Effect has something important to do with language evolution (Jackendoff 2002, Kirby 2000). Neither did I address the fact that… oh well, as you see, language evolution is a pretty darn complex interdisciplinary field, but I think I pinpointed some of the (if not all) key issues critical for the evolution of language and the human mind. Hope you enjoyed my digressions inspired by Cheney and Seyfarth’s book. Cheers.


Arbib, Michael A. 2005. “From monkey-like action recognition to human language: An evolutionary framework for neurolinguistics.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28: 105-167

Barsalou, Lawrence W. 2005. “Continuity of the conceptual system across species.” Trends. Cog. Sc. 9.7: 309-311.

Barsalou, Lawrence W. In press. “Grounded Cognition.” In: Annual Review of Psychology 59

Barsalou, Lawrence W. in press b. “Grounding symbolic operations in the brain’s modal systems.” Embodied grounding: Social, cognitive, affective, and neuroscientific approaches. Eds. G.R. Semin & E.R. Smith. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bickerton, Derek. 2006. “Language Evolution

Burling, Robbins. 2005. The Talking Ape. Oxford: OUP

Cangelosi, A., Greco, A., & Harnad, S. 2002. “Symbol Grounding and the Symbolic Theft Hypothesis”. Simulating the Evolution of Language. Eds. A.Cangelosi & D. Parisi . London: Springer

Cheney, Dorothy L. and Robert M. Seyfarth. 2007. Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Deacon, Terrence William 1998. The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain. New York / London: W.W. Norton.

Dennett, Daniel C. 1987. The Intentional Stance. Cambridge, M.A.: Bradford Books.

Desalles, Jean-Louis. 2007. Why We Talk. Oxford: OUP.

Dunbar, Robin 1998. “Theory of Mind and the Evolution of Language.” In: James
R. Hurford, Michael Studdert-Kennedy and Chris Knight (eds.). Approaches to the Evolution of Language. Social and Cognitive Bases. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Dunbar, R. I. M. and Susanne Shultz. 2007.“Evolution in the Social Brain” Science 317: 1344-1347

Franks, Bradley and Kate Rigby 2005. “Deception and mate selection: some implications for relevance and the evolution of language” Language Origins: Perspectives on Evolution. Ed. Maggie Tallerman. Oxford: OUP.

Gil-da-Costa, Ricardo, Allen Braun, Marco Lopes, Marc D. Hauser, Richard E. Carson, Peter Herscovitch and Alex Martin. 2004. “Toward an evolutionary perspective on conceptual representation: Species-specific calls activate visual and affective processing systems in the macaque.” PNAS 101.50: 17516–17521.

Hauser, Marc D., Noam Chomsky and W. Tecumseh Fitch 2002. “The Faculty ofLanguage: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?” In: Science 298, 1569-1579.

Herrmann, Esther, Josep Call, María Victoria Hernández-Lloreda, Brian Hare, and Michael Tomasello. 2007. “Humans Have Evolved Specialized Skills of Social Cognition: The Cultural Intelligence Hypothesis.” Science 317: 1360-1365.

Jackendoff, Ray. 2002.. Foundations of language: brain, meaning, grammar, evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kirby, Simon 1998. “Fitness and the Selective Adaptation of Language.” In: James R. Hurford, Michael Studdert-Kennedy and Chris Knight (eds.). Approaches to the Evolution of Language. Social and Cognitive Bases. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 359-383.

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Book

Lupyan, Gary. 2006. “Labels Facilitate Learning of Novel Categories.” The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference. Eds. A. Cangelosi, A.D.M. Smith & K.R. Smith Singapore: World Scientific,190-197

Miller, Earl K., David J. Freedman and Jonathan D. Wallis 2002. “The Prefrontal Cortex: Categories, Concepts and Cognition.” In: Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 357: 1123–1136

Poirier, Pierre, Benoit Hardy-Vallée and Jean-Frédéric Depasquale.2005. “Embodied Categorization.” Handbook of Categorization in Cognitive Science. Eds. Henri Cohen and Claire Lefebvre. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005.

Pinker, Steven 1994. The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and Mind. London: Lane Penguin Press.

Reader, S.M. 2003. “Relative brain size and the distribution of innovation and social learning across the nonhuman primates.” The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Eds. D.M. Fragaszy and S. Perry, 56-93.

Reader, S.M. and K.N. Laland. 2002. “Social Intelligence, innovation, and enhanced brain size in primates” PNAS 99: 4436-4441.

Rilling, James K. 2006. Human and NonHuman Primate Brains: Are They Allometrically Scaled Versions of the Same Design? Evolutionary Anthropology 15: 67-77.

Ryder, Dan and Oleg V. Favorov. 2001. “The New Associationism: A Neural Explanation for the Predictive Powers of Cerebral Cortex.” Brain and Mind 2.2. 161-194.

Tomasello, Michael, Malinda Carpenter, Josep Call, Tanya Behne, and Henrike Moll. 2004. “Understanding and Sharing Intentions: The Origins of Cultural Cognition.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28.4

Tooby, John and Irven DeVore 1987. “The Reconstruction of Hominid Rvolution Through Strategic Modelling.” The Evolution of Human Behavior: Primate Models. Ed. W.G. Kinzey. Albany: SUNY.

Turner, Mark. 2003. “Double-Scope Stories.” Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences. Ed. David Herman

Rizzolatti, Giacomo and Laila Craighero. “The Mirror-Neuron System.” Annual Review of Neuroscience 27 (2004): 169–192.

Uddin, Lucina Q., Marco Iacoboni, Claudia Lange and Julian Paul Keenan. 2007.“The Self and Social Cognition: The Role of Cortical Midline Structures and Mirror Neurons.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11.4 53-157.

Wheatley, Thalia, Shawn C. Milleville and Alex Martin. “Understanding Animate Agents: Distinct Roles for the Social Network and Mirror System.” Psychological Science 18.6 (2007): 469-474.

No comments: