Changes in the human face may not be due only to purely mechanical factors. The human face, after all, plays an important role in social interaction, emotion, and communication. Some of these changes may be driven, in part, by social context. Our ancestors were challenged by the environment and increasingly impacted by culture and social factors. Over time, the ability to form diverse facial expressions likely enhanced nonverbal communication.
Large, protruding brow ridges are typical of some extinct species of our own genus, Homo, like Homo erectus and the Neanderthals. What function did these structures play in adaptive changes in the face? The African great apes also have strong brow ridges, which researchers suggest help to communicate dominance or aggression. It is probably safe to conclude that similar social functions influenced the facial form of our ancestors and extinct relatives. Along with large, sharp canine teeth, large brow ridges were lost along the evolutionary road to our own species, perhaps as we evolved to become less aggressive and more cooperative in social contexts.Paper. paywall – Rodrigo S. Lacruz, Chris B. Stringer, William H. Kimbel, Bernard Wood, Katerina Harvati, Paul O’Higgins, Timothy G. Bromage & Juan-Luis Arsuaga. The evolutionary history of the human face. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0865-7 More.
Okay, but social expression is only important if one has something to communicate. How the “something to communicate” came to exist is the tricky part. That’s when the nonsense starts up.
And when did the “something to communicate” start to happen? What if evidence of abstract reasoning predates the noted facial changes by tens of thousands of millennia?
Also, from Cosmos:
“We can now use our faces to signal more than 20 different categories of emotion via the contraction or relaxation of muscles”, says Paul O’Higgins, from the University of York in the UK.
“It’s unlikely that our early human ancestors had the same facial dexterity as the overall shape of the face and the positions of the muscles were different.” Nick Carne, “Face facts: we have evolved to communicate” at Cosmos
It’s interesting to know but it’s not serious science until we can identify precise relationships.
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See also: Neuroscientist: “Ultra social ability” makes humans smarter than apes Maybe greater social intelligence is the outcome of a much higher order of underlying intelligence in humans?
Panpsychism: You are conscious but so is your coffee mug (conundrums of materialism)