There was no simpler way of doing it? From Mark Maslin at RealClearScience:
Our social groups are large and complex, but this creates high stress levels for individuals because the rewards in terms of food, safety and reproduction are so great. Hence, Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar argues our huge brain is primarily developed to keep track of rapidly changing relationships. It takes a huge amount of cognitive ability to exist in large social groups, and if you fall out of the group you lose access to food and mates and are unlikely to reproduce and pass on your genes.More.
But, re relationships, don’t wolves and cattle have the same rotten luck, more or less? Isn’t it more likely that the complex relationships are the result, not the cause, of greater intellectual capacity?
Meanwhile, from New Scientist, we hear a warning against putting big brains down to our social nature:
New work on primates bolsters the idea that diet – rather than social complexity – was key to evolution of our big brains, says chimp expert Richard WranghamMore.
Cattle? A poem my dad loves tells the sad tale of the losing bull:
See an old unhappy bull,
Sick in soul and body both,
slouching in the undergrowth
Of the forest beautiful,
Banished from the herd he led,
Bulls and cows a thousand head.
Lots of lost relationship there, but not much brain.
See also: Mathematical model says humans’ larger brains evolved via food, not culture
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Human origins: The war of trivial explanations
Have neuroscientists been on the wrong track about the brain for centuries?