Research Article

Humans Have Evolved Specialized Skills of Social Cognition: The Cultural Intelligence Hypothesis

Science  07 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5843, pp. 1360-1366
DOI: 10.1126/science.1146282

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Abstract

Humans have many cognitive skills not possessed by their nearest primate relatives. The cultural intelligence hypothesis argues that this is mainly due to a species-specific set of social-cognitive skills, emerging early in ontogeny, for participating and exchanging knowledge in cultural groups. We tested this hypothesis by giving a comprehensive battery of cognitive tests to large numbers of two of humans' closest primate relatives, chimpanzees and orangutans, as well as to 2.5-year-old human children before literacy and schooling. Supporting the cultural intelligence hypothesis and contradicting the hypothesis that humans simply have more “general intelligence,” we found that the children and chimpanzees had very similar cognitive skills for dealing with the physical world but that the children had more sophisticated cognitive skills than either of the ape species for dealing with the social world.

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