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Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 May;14(5):201-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.03.003. Epub 2010 Apr 1.

Towards a bottom-up perspective on animal and human cognition.

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Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and Psychology Department, Emory University, 954 North Gatewood Road, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Over the last few decades, comparative cognitive research has focused on the pinnacles of mental evolution, asking all-or-nothing questions such as which animals (if any) possess a theory of mind, culture, linguistic abilities, future planning, and so on. Research programs adopting this top-down perspective have often pitted one taxon against another, resulting in sharp dividing lines. Insight into the underlying mechanisms has lagged behind. A dramatic change in focus now seems to be under way, however, with increased appreciation that the basic building blocks of cognition might be shared across a wide range of species. We argue that this bottom-up perspective, which focuses on the constituent capacities underlying larger cognitive phenomena, is more in line with both neuroscience and evolutionary biology.

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