The evolution of self-control
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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.
MacLean , E L , Hare , B , Nunn , C L , Addessi , E , Amici , F , Anderson , R C , Aureli , F , Baker , J M , Bania , A E , Barnard , A M , Boogert , N J , Brannon , E M , Bray , E E , Bray , J , Brent , L J N , Burkart , J M , Call , J , Cantlon , J F , Cheke , L G , Clayton , N S , Delgado , M M , DiVincenti , L J , Fujita , K , Herrmann , E , Hiramatsu , C , Jacobs , L F , Jordan , K E , Laude , J R , Leimgruber , K L , Messer , E J E , Moura , A C D A , Ostojić , L , Picard , A , Platt , M L , Plotnik , J M , Range , F , Reader , S M , Reddy , R B , Sandel , A A , Santos , L R , Schumann , K , Seed , A M , Sewall , K B , Shaw , R C , Slocombe , K E , Su , Y , Takimoto , A , Tan , J , Tao , R , van Schaik , C P , Virányi , Z , Visalberghi , E , Wade , J C , Watanabe , A , Widness , J , Young , J K , Zentall , T R & Zhao , Y 2014 , ' The evolution of self-control ' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , vol 111 , no. 20 , pp. E2140-8 . DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1323533111
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Copyright © 2014, National Academy of Sciences (USA). This work is made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://dx.doi.org/ 10.1073/pnas.1323533111
This work was supported by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) through support of a working group led by C.L.N. and B.H. NESCent is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) EF-0905606. For training in phylogenetic comparative methods, we thank the AnthroTree Workshop (supported by NSF BCS-0923791). Y.S. thanks the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project 31170995) and National Basic Research Program (973 Program: 2010CB833904). E.E.B. thanks the Duke Vertical Integration Program and the Duke Undergraduate Research Support Office. J.M.P. was supported by a Newton International Fellowship from the Royal Society and the British Academy. L.R.S. thanks the James S. McDonnell Foundation for Award 220020242. L.J.N.B. and M.L.P. acknowledge the National Institutes of Mental Health (R01-MH096875 and R01-MH089484), a Duke Institute for Brain Sciences Incubator Award (to M.L.P.), and a Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences Fellowship (to L.J.N.B.). E.V. and E.A. thank the Programma Nazionale per la Ricerca–Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) Aging Program 2012–2014 for financial support, Roma Capitale–Museo Civico di Zoologia and Fondazione Bioparco for hosting the Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione–CNR Unit of Cognitive Primatology and Primate Centre, and Massimiliano Bianchi and Simone Catarinacci for assistance with capuchin monkeys. K.F. thanks the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) for Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research 20220004. F. Aureli thanks the Stages in the Evolution and Development of Sign Use project (Contract 012-984 NESTPathfinder) and the Integrating Cooperation Research Across Europe project (Contract 043318), both funded by the European Community’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6/2002–2006). F. Amici was supported by Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers (Humboldt ID 1138999). L.F.J. and M.M.D. acknowledge NSF Electrical, Communications, and Cyber Systems Grant 1028319 (to L.F.J.) and an NSF Graduate Fellowship (to M.M.D.). C.H. thanks Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows (10J04395). A.T. thanks Research Fellowships of the JSPS for Young Scientists (21264). F.R. and Z.V. acknowledge Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Project P21244-B17, the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013)/ERC Grant Agreement 311870 (to F.R.), Vienna Science and Technology Fund Project CS11-026 (to Z.V.), and many private sponsors, including Royal Canin for financial support and the Game Park Ernstbrunn for hosting the Wolf Science Center. S.M.R. thanks the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Canada). J.K.Y. thanks the US Department of Agriculture–Wildlife Services–National Wildlife Research Center. J.F.C. thanks the James S. McDonnell Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. E.L.M. and B.H. thank the Duke Lemur Center and acknowledge National Institutes of Health Grant 5 R03 HD070649-02 and NSF Grants DGE-1106401, NSF-BCS-27552, and NSF-BCS-25172. This is Publication 1265 of the Duke Lemur Center.