How Our Ancestors Raised Children to Think as Modern Humans

Biological Theory 5 (2):142-153 (2010)
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Abstract

This article argues that social selection pressures in recent human evolution were primarily responsible for the emergence of modern cognition. These selection pressures took three specific forms: Increased security and stability, which reduced allostatic load on developing children, facilitating expanded working memory development; increased opportunities for mother-infant joint engagement, which created positive selection for more sophisticated forms of cognition; and increased pressure on ritualized behavior associated with both mother-infant joint engagement and the construction and maintenance of an unprecedentedly complex adult social world. These pressures directly affected the development of the behavioral trait of effortful control in children. Effortful control is closely linked with executive functions, including working memory. Effortful control also shows characteristics that make it a prime candidate for rapidly spreading, culturally driven changes that were prevalent late in human evolution

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