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Selective pressures towards the evolution of cooperation, communication and cognition

Selective pressures towards the evolution of cooperation, communication and cognition
Selective pressures towards the evolution of cooperation, communication and cognition
One of the main problems in studying human origins from an evolutionary perspective is uniqueness: we have evolved to fill a social and cognitive niche that is so distinctive it renders useless the usual investigative tool of careful comparison with other, similar species. Features such as cognition, communication and cooperation reached, in humans, unprecedented levels of sophistication and complexity. These features not only converge to the social dimension but they also lack a clear function outside it, a fact that makes epiphenomenal explanations unlikely. The main goal of this thesis is to shed light on the conditions that led to the evolution of modern humans through the development of computational models. Our research hypothesis is based on the assumption that the human “primeval niche” lies in the intersection of three fundamental phenomena: cooperation, communication and cognition. We argue that these three elements are intimately connected and that their intersection is the ideal spot to explore the so called human cognitive explosion. The new internal selective pressures that arise from any cooperative environment trigger asymmetric competitive co-evolutionary arms races that can pull the population in the opposing directions of altruism and selfishness. Co evolutionary feedback loops usually stagnate due to their increasing biological cost, however, in the human case, the invention of communication and language as a tool for social cohesion opened up a new “medium”, where both co operators and defectors can play their own personal “battle” at a lower cost and at a faster pace. Following this, we re-implement and develop several models of the evolution of communication and cooperation. As this thesis progresses, the scope of our modelling efforts is narrowed towards the study of the emergence of the simplest cooperative mechanism that explicitly relies on communication and important cognitive abilities: indirect reciprocity. Our findings strongly suggest that primitive communication could have evolved in order to sustain cooperation through indirect reciprocity and therefore communication and, eventually, language could have evolved as a tool for social cohesion. Moreover, our results indicate that there are two different evolutionary paths towards this goal. The first includes low levels of gossip in a trusting environment governed by a moderately heterogeneous moral system. The second consists of high levels of gossip in a suspicious context governed by a homogeneous moral system. The main contribution of this thesis is a plausible evolutionary outline of the primeval niche that early humans occupied and its depiction through the interactions and interdependence of the three cornerstones of human nature: cognition, communication and cooperation.
Arranz, Jordi
779fa9cb-277c-4e78-a4d6-2fa23f863dfc
Arranz, Jordi
779fa9cb-277c-4e78-a4d6-2fa23f863dfc
Brede, Markus
bbd03865-8e0b-4372-b9d7-cd549631f3f7

Arranz, Jordi (2015) Selective pressures towards the evolution of cooperation, communication and cognition. University of Southampton, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Doctoral Thesis, 249pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

One of the main problems in studying human origins from an evolutionary perspective is uniqueness: we have evolved to fill a social and cognitive niche that is so distinctive it renders useless the usual investigative tool of careful comparison with other, similar species. Features such as cognition, communication and cooperation reached, in humans, unprecedented levels of sophistication and complexity. These features not only converge to the social dimension but they also lack a clear function outside it, a fact that makes epiphenomenal explanations unlikely. The main goal of this thesis is to shed light on the conditions that led to the evolution of modern humans through the development of computational models. Our research hypothesis is based on the assumption that the human “primeval niche” lies in the intersection of three fundamental phenomena: cooperation, communication and cognition. We argue that these three elements are intimately connected and that their intersection is the ideal spot to explore the so called human cognitive explosion. The new internal selective pressures that arise from any cooperative environment trigger asymmetric competitive co-evolutionary arms races that can pull the population in the opposing directions of altruism and selfishness. Co evolutionary feedback loops usually stagnate due to their increasing biological cost, however, in the human case, the invention of communication and language as a tool for social cohesion opened up a new “medium”, where both co operators and defectors can play their own personal “battle” at a lower cost and at a faster pace. Following this, we re-implement and develop several models of the evolution of communication and cooperation. As this thesis progresses, the scope of our modelling efforts is narrowed towards the study of the emergence of the simplest cooperative mechanism that explicitly relies on communication and important cognitive abilities: indirect reciprocity. Our findings strongly suggest that primitive communication could have evolved in order to sustain cooperation through indirect reciprocity and therefore communication and, eventually, language could have evolved as a tool for social cohesion. Moreover, our results indicate that there are two different evolutionary paths towards this goal. The first includes low levels of gossip in a trusting environment governed by a moderately heterogeneous moral system. The second consists of high levels of gossip in a suspicious context governed by a homogeneous moral system. The main contribution of this thesis is a plausible evolutionary outline of the primeval niche that early humans occupied and its depiction through the interactions and interdependence of the three cornerstones of human nature: cognition, communication and cooperation.

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More information

Published date: June 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton, Agents, Interactions & Complexity

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 383620
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/383620
PURE UUID: f9dfc255-bb4e-4b1b-a9c2-90b18ca4eb86

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Date deposited: 13 Nov 2015 13:06
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 20:11

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Contributors

Author: Jordi Arranz
Thesis advisor: Markus Brede

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