Teamwork made Man brainier, say scientists

Learning to work in teams may explain why humans evolved a bigger brain, according to a new study published on Wednesday.

Compared to his hominid predecessors, Homo sapiens is a cerebral giant, a riddle that scientists have long tried to solve.

The answer, according to researchers in Ireland and Scotland, may lie in social interaction.

Working with others helped Man to survive, but he had to develop a brain big enough to cope with all the social complexities, they believe.

In a computer model, the team simulated the human brain, allowing a network of neurons to evolve in response to a series of social challenges.

There were two scenarios. The first entailed two partners in crime who had been caught by the police, each having to decide whether or not to inform on the other.

The second had two individuals trapped in a car in a snowdrift and having to weigh whether to cooperate to dig themselves out or just sit back and let the other do it.

In both cases, the individual would gain more from selfishness.

But the researchers were intrigued to find that as the brain evolved, the individual was likelier to choose to cooperate.

"We cooperate in large groups of unrelated individuals quite frequently, and that requires cognitive abilities to keep track of who is doing what to you and change your behaviour accordingly," co-author Luke McNally of Dublin's Trinity College told AFP.

McNally pointed out, though, that cooperation has a calculating side. We do it out of reciprocity.

"If you cooperate and I cheat, then next time we interact you could decide: 'Oh well, he cheated last time, so I won't cooperate with him.' So basically you have to cooperate in order to receive cooperation in the future."

McNally said teamwork and bigger brainpower fed off each other.

"Transitions to cooperative, complex societies can drive the evolution of a bigger brain," he said.

"Once greater levels of intelligence started to evolve, you saw cooperation going much higher."

The study appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a journal published by Britain's de-facto academy of sciences.

Commenting on the paper, Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary anthropologist at Oxford University, said the findings were a valuable add to understanding brain evolution.

But he said there were physiological limits to cooperation.

Man would need a "house-sized brain" to take cooperation to a perfect level on a planet filled with humans.

"Our current brain size limits the community size that we can manage ... that we feel we belong to," he said.

Our comfortable "personal social network" is limited to about 150, and boosting that to 500 would require a doubling of the size of the brain.

"In order to create greater social integration, greater social cohesion even on the size of France, never mind the size of the EU, never mind the planet, we probably have to find other ways of doing it" than wait for evolution, said Dunbar.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl
    Billionaire finds wreck of WWII ship in Phl

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he has found the Japanese Navy’s biggest warship at the bottom of the sea in the Philippines, 70 years after US forces sank it. Allen posted a photo on Twitter on Tuesday of the World War II battleship Musashi’s rusty bow, which bore the Japanese empire’s Chrysanthemum seal. The American billionaire, who has also pursued space exploration, said his luxury yacht and exploration ship, the M/Y Octopus, found the Musashi one kilometer (1.6 miles) deep on the …

  • 8 of 10 cities most at risk from natural disasters located in Phl – study
    8 of 10 cities most at risk from natural disasters located in Phl – study

    Eight of 10 world cities most exposed to natural hazards are in the Philippines and more than half of the 100 cities most exposed to earthquakes, storms and other disasters are in four Asian nations, according to a research. The study, published on Wednesday by risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, analyzed the threat posed by storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, volcanoes and landslides in more than 1,300 cities. The study found that the 10 cities most at risk are Port Vila in …

  • Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile
    Miriam bucks house arrest for Enrile

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago believes granting Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile house arrest, while former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains under hospital detention, will violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. “That’s already a violation of the equal protection of the law,” she said. …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • UNA hits PNP selection process
    UNA hits PNP selection process

    The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) hit yesterday the apparent machinations in the selection of the new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief. Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA interim president, said the administration and the ruling Liberal Party (LP) are perpetuating the bata-bata or patronage system in the selection process of the police chief. “They will start this by maneuvering the appointment of Gen. Garbo as PNP chief,” said Tiangco, referring to one of the top contenders for PNP …

  • Pacquiao: Mayweather is the fight of my life
    Pacquiao: Mayweather is the fight of my life

    Manny Pacquiao called his boxing showdown with Floyd Mayweather “the fight of my life” as he got down to work pounding the streets and gym in Los Angeles. On Monday, Pacquiao ran two miles (3.2 km) and shadow-boxed for two rounds, followed by abdominal work and breakfast of steamed rice, scrambled egg, fish and chicken broth. Then he napped until noon and had lunch before heading to trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym, which is strictly off-limits to fans and media during Pacquiao’s …

  • Ohio mom, boyfriend guilty; child emailed teacher for help

    PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (AP) — A woman and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to raping her young children and were sentenced to prison on Wednesday, a year after one of her daughters emailed a teacher for help and said she and her siblings were being chained to their beds, deprived of food and sexually assaulted. …

  • New Moro rebel group emerges
    New Moro rebel group emerges

    A radical Muslim cleric trained in the Middle East and considered one of the leaders of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has broken away from the terror group to form his own band of jihadists who are now reportedly providing sanctuary to bomb expert Basit Usman and at least five foreign militants, the military said yesterday. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla, citing reports from the field, said the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) was …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options