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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 May 20;111(20):E2140-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1323533111. Epub 2014 Apr 21.

The evolution of self-control.

Author information

1
Departments of Evolutionary Anthropology, maclean@duke.edu.
2
Departments of Evolutionary Anthropology,Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
3
Departments of Evolutionary Anthropology.
4
Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, 00197 Rome, Italy;
5
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany;
6
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27704;
7
Instituto de Neuroetologia, Universidad Veracruzana, Xalapa, CP 91190, Mexico;Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool L3 3AF, United Kingdom;
8
Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research andDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305;
9
Center for Animal Care Sciences, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008;
10
Department of Brain and Cognitive Science and.
11
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9JP, Scotland;
12
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience,Psychology and Neuroscience, and.
13
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104;
14
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience,Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708;
15
Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland;
16
Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, United Kingdom;
17
Department of Psychology and.
18
Department of Comparative Medicine, Seneca Park Zoo, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14620;
19
Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan;
20
Department of Psychology andHelen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;
21
Departments of Psychology and.
22
Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506;
23
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520;
24
Departamento Engenharia e Meio Ambiente, Universidade Federal da Paraiba, 58059-900, João Pessoa, Brazil;
25
Department of Psychology, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom;
26
Departments of Evolutionary Anthropology,Center for Cognitive Neuroscience,Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708;Neurobiology, and.
27
Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, United Kingdom;Think Elephants International, Stone Ridge, NY 12484;
28
Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria;Wolf Science Center, A-2115 Ernstbrunn, Austria;
29
Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1;
30
Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; and.
31
Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.
32
Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria;
33
Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322;

Abstract

Cognition presents evolutionary research with one of its greatest challenges. Cognitive evolution has been explained at the proximate level by shifts in absolute and relative brain volume and at the ultimate level by differences in social and dietary complexity. However, no study has integrated the experimental and phylogenetic approach at the scale required to rigorously test these explanations. Instead, previous research has largely relied on various measures of brain size as proxies for cognitive abilities. We experimentally evaluated these major evolutionary explanations by quantitatively comparing the cognitive performance of 567 individuals representing 36 species on two problem-solving tasks measuring self-control. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that absolute brain volume best predicted performance across species and accounted for considerably more variance than brain volume controlling for body mass. This result corroborates recent advances in evolutionary neurobiology and illustrates the cognitive consequences of cortical reorganization through increases in brain volume. Within primates, dietary breadth but not social group size was a strong predictor of species differences in self-control. Our results implicate robust evolutionary relationships between dietary breadth, absolute brain volume, and self-control. These findings provide a significant first step toward quantifying the primate cognitive phenome and explaining the process of cognitive evolution.

KEYWORDS:

behavior; comparative methods; executive function; inhibitory control; psychology

PMID:
24753565
PMCID:
PMC4034204
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1323533111
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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