Saturday, September 02, 2006

 

Book Review: 'The Origin of Mind: Evolution of Brain, Cognition, and General Intelligence'

Book Review from the American Journal of Psychiatry: "The Origin of Mind: Evolution of Brain, Cognition, and General Intelligence"

David Geary's The Origin of Mind is a remarkable book. As suggested by its subtitle, it ambitiously addresses many of the oldest questions of science (and society): How does one define intelligence? Is intelligence a biologically meaningful concept? What neurobiological mechanisms underlie not only intelligence but cognition in general? And, ultimately, what (if any) selective pressures shaped the evolution of the human brain? These are profound questions to ask and (to varying degrees in different chapters) Geary's work does an extraordinary job in answering them.

The book is organized around the author's "motivation to control" hypothesis - essentially, that the driving force of human evolution is an individual's ability to maintain control over the immediate environment. After a brief overview of natural and sexual selection, he focuses on the specific pressures likely to have contributed to hominid evolution - the most striking aspect of which is the exponential increase in both brain size and encephalization quotient that has taken place over the past 500,000 years. He argues that climatic forces were unlikely to have played a major role; rather, social pressures prevailed after relative ecological mastery was achieved.
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"The Origin of Mind: Evolution of Brain, Cognition, and General Intelligence" is currently appearing on the 'Featured Books' page of the Evolution Book Store: UK | US - or go directly to the Amazon webpage: UK | US

Featured Books: "The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology" (Amazon UK | US)

and "Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution" (Amazon UK | US)

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