Why the Big Brain? The Evolution of Human Cognition
This course will explore the origins and evolution of human cognition. What are the key defining features of cognition that humans excel at? How rapidly did they emerge in our history? What aspects do we consider to be exclusively human and what do we share with our hominid ancestors? Working our way through primate evolution (including non-human and fossil hominins), we will examine the major shifts that have occurred in the development of the "Notable Neocortex", the proposed selective pressures that are thought to have spurred these changes, and the physiological and behavioural outcomes that are projected to have resulted from these changes at different points in history. We will investigate evidence that combines the fields of biological anthropology, comparative biology, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, and ponder our contemporary cognition through an evolutionary lens - including the costs associated with carrying such a big brain.