Social inference and the evolution of the human brain [thesis]

Timothy Richard Koscik
The evolutionary forces that led to the unprecedented expansion of the human brain and the extreme cognitive prowess possessed by humans have always attracted a great deal of attention from the scientific community. Presented here is a novel theoretical perspective, where the driving force on human brain evolution was the need for enhanced ability to infer social values of conspecifics in the face of degradation and loss of chemosensory signalling mechanisms necessary for social communication
more » ... esent in most mammals. The lack of chemosensory communication of biologically relevant information between humans in the face of the need to make adaptive and accurate social evaluations, led to an exaption of mammalian chemosensory brain regions for the more complex task of inferring social values from behavioural cues that are variable, ambiguous, or otherwise difficult to detect and interpret. This change in social processing from perceptual evaluation to inferential computation placed a premium on cognitive capacity, thus selecting for larger more powerful brains. These selective processes would have left an indelible mark on the human brain, where the human homologues of regions involved in mammalian conspecific chemical communication, in particular the target regions of this study the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), should be involved in the processing of biologically relevant information and social inference. Several experiments were conducted to examine the role of these brain regions in social inferential processing using the lesion deficit method. First, given that conspecific chemical communication is particularly relevant for biologically imperative evaluation for the purposes of reproduction, VMPC and amygdala damage may result in abnormal mate-related decisions. Second, normal social attributions exhibit the correspondence bias, however damage to the target regions may result in an abnormal lack correspondence bias. Third, the current hypothesis is contrasted with another leading hypothesis, the Social Brain Hypothesis whose proponents predict a relationship between Abstract Approved: ___________________________________ Thesis Supervisor
doi:10.17077/etd.c68zajh0 fatcat:dqnzezkamzcgbdqwkdgwb3fjge