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Journal Article

Evolutionary psychology of spatial representations in the hominidae

MPS-Authors
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Haun,  Daniel B. M.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Categories across Language and Cognition, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Janzen,  Gabriele
Language Production Group Levelt , MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Categories across Language and Cognition, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Levinson,  Stephen C.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Categories across Language and Cognition, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Haun_2006_Evolutionary.pdf
(Publisher version), 160KB

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Citation

Haun, D. B. M., Call, J., Janzen, G., & Levinson, S. C. (2006). Evolutionary psychology of spatial representations in the hominidae. Current Biology, 16(17), 1736-1740. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.07.049.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-1D48-6
Abstract
Comparatively little is known about the inherited primate background underlying human cognition, the human cognitive “wild-type.” Yet it is possible to trace the evolution of human cognitive abilities and tendencies by contrasting the skills of our nearest cousins, not just chimpanzees, but all the extant great apes, thus showing what we are likely to have inherited from the common ancestor [1]. By looking at human infants early in cognitive development, we can also obtain insights into native cognitive biases in our species [2]. Here, we focus on spatial memory, a central cognitive domain. We show, first, that all nonhuman great apes and 1-year-old human infants exhibit a preference for place over feature strategies for spatial memory. This suggests the common ancestor of all great apes had the same preference. We then examine 3-year-old human children and find that this preference reverses. Thus, the continuity between our species and the other great apes is masked early in human ontogeny. These findings, based on both phylogenetic and ontogenetic contrasts, open up the prospect of a systematic evolutionary psychology resting upon the cladistics of cognitive preferences.