How does cognition evolve? Phylogenetic comparative psychology.

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Date

2012-03

Authors

MacLean, Evan L
Matthews, Luke J
Hare, Brian A
Nunn, Charles L
Anderson, Rindy C
Aureli, Filippo
Brannon, Elizabeth M
Call, Josep
Drea, Christine M
Emery, Nathan J

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Abstract

Now more than ever animal studies have the potential to test hypotheses regarding how cognition evolves. Comparative psychologists have developed new techniques to probe the cognitive mechanisms underlying animal behavior, and they have become increasingly skillful at adapting methodologies to test multiple species. Meanwhile, evolutionary biologists have generated quantitative approaches to investigate the phylogenetic distribution and function of phenotypic traits, including cognition. In particular, phylogenetic methods can quantitatively (1) test whether specific cognitive abilities are correlated with life history (e.g., lifespan), morphology (e.g., brain size), or socio-ecological variables (e.g., social system), (2) measure how strongly phylogenetic relatedness predicts the distribution of cognitive skills across species, and (3) estimate the ancestral state of a given cognitive trait using measures of cognitive performance from extant species. Phylogenetic methods can also be used to guide the selection of species comparisons that offer the strongest tests of a priori predictions of cognitive evolutionary hypotheses (i.e., phylogenetic targeting). Here, we explain how an integration of comparative psychology and evolutionary biology will answer a host of questions regarding the phylogenetic distribution and history of cognitive traits, as well as the evolutionary processes that drove their evolution.

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Journal article

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Subjects

Animals, Behavioral Research, Biological Evolution, Cognition, Hominidae, Phylogeny, Primates, Psychology, Comparative

Citation

Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1007/s10071-011-0448-8

Publication Info

MacLean, Evan L, Luke J Matthews, Brian A Hare, Charles L Nunn, Rindy C Anderson, Filippo Aureli, Elizabeth M Brannon, Josep Call, et al. (2012). How does cognition evolve? Phylogenetic comparative psychology. Anim Cogn, 15(2). pp. 223–238. 10.1007/s10071-011-0448-8 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6593.

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Scholars@Duke

Hare

Brian Hare

Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology
Nunn

Charles L Nunn

Gosnell Family Professor in Global Health
Drea

Christine M. Drea

Professor in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology

I have two broad research interests, sexual differentiation and social behavior, both focused on hyenas and primates. I am particularly interested in unusual species in which the females display a suite of masculinized characteristics, including male- like or exaggerated external genitalia and social dominance.
The study of naturally occurring hormones in such unique mammals can reveal general processes of hormonal activity, expressed in genital morphology, reproductive development, and social behavior. Taking a combined laboratory and field approach allows me to relate captive data to various facets of the animals' natural habitat, thereby enhancing the ecological validity of assay procedures and enriching interpretation in an evolutionary framework. The goal of comparative studies of hyenas and lemurs is to help elucidate the mechanisms of mammalian sexual differentiation.

My research program in social behavior focuses on social learning and group cohesion. Using naturalistic tasks that I present to captive animals in socially relevant contexts, I can investigate how social interaction modulates behavior, problem- solving, and cognitive performance. By studying and comparing models of carnivore and primate foraging, I can better understand how group-living animals modify their actions to meet environmental demands. A primary interest is determining whether similar factors, related to having a complex social organization, influence learning and performance across taxonomic groups. I am also interested in how animals learn rules of social conduct and maintain social cohesion, as evidenced by their patterns of behavioral developmental, the intricate balance between aggression and play, the expression of scent marking, and the social facilitation or inhibition of behavior.


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