The processes and background behind the successful global dispersal of modern humans are among the most hotly debated issues in paleoanthropology. Many hypothetical causes for the replacement (and/or assimilation) of archaic hominid populations by modern humans—hereafter, the replacement—have been invoked, including differences in population size, technological capability, symbolic ability, cognitive fluidity, life history, and birth rate. Among these, the hypothesis referred to in this and the following volumes is concerned with cognitive differences that may have existed between Neanderthals and modern humans. More specifically, we address a working hypothesis coined the “learning hypothesis,” which assumes that the replacement was due to innate differences in learning ability. Better known cognitive hypotheses include the “neural hypothesis,” suggesting that modern humans acquired powerful linguistic and symbolic abilities (Klein and Edgar 2002); and a cognitive fluidity model claiming that modern humans possessed more developed fluid mentalities (Mithen 1996, 2005). More recently, Coolidge and Wynn (2009), Wynn and Coolidge (2011) have presented a hypothesis that argues for differences in working memory capacity.
KeywordsLearning Strategy Work Memory Capacity Archaeological Record Replacement Process Modern Human
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