Weak Modularity and the Evolution of Human Social Behavior

  • James Steele
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


Cognition is one of the meeting points of genes and culture, and understanding human cognitive evolution is therefore central to our understanding of the evolution of human cultural capacities. Currently this is hampered by the polarization of debate on “universals” and cognitive modularity. The straw man options have been Model 1 (“general intelligence”)—human cognition entails content-independent, domain-general generative and analytical skills, generalized across domains such as language, object-manipulation, and social interaction—and Model 2 (“strong modularity”)—human cognition entails genetically determined domain-specific abilities which are not transferable across domains. Model 1 is generally wedded to encephalization models of human brain evolution, and tends to be associated with a long time frame, gradualism, and an emphasis on similarities between human and nonhuman cognition. The paradigm is most strongly associated with Piaget and his school in cognitive-developmental psychology. Model 2 is generally wedded to reorganization models of human brain evolution, and tends to be associated with a telescoping of the time frame to emphasize a late, differentiating “last spurt” in human cog-nitive evolution in adaptation to Plestocene environments. It is most closely associated with chomsky’s position in linguistics, and with Fodor’s work in cognitive science.


Group Size Brain Size Conditional Reasoning Human Brain Evolution Human Cognitive Evolution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Steele
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of SouthamptonHighfield, SouthamptonUK

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