Cognitive Evolution Group
Departments of Psychology and Anthropology
University of Michigan
A sense of time in human evolution
What psychological mechanisms do primates use to engage in self-control, and what is the ultimate function of these skills? I will argue that a suite of decision-making capacities, including choices about the timing of benefits, evolved in the context of foraging behaviors and vary with ecological complexity across species. Then, I will examine how these foraging capacities can be generalized to solve novel problems posing temporal costs that are important for humans, such as cooking food, and can therefore underpin evolutionary transitions in behavior. Finally, I will present work testing the hypothesis that a limited future time horizon constrains the expression of other complex abilities in nonhumans, explaining the emergence of human-unique forms of social cognition and behavior.
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