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.

  • Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused
    Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused

    The Sandiganbayan has allowed a government official, accused with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to undergo a medical procedure at a hospital tomorrow. The anti-graft court permitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Benigno Aguas to undergo a cardiopulmonary/endocrine clearance at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. …

  • Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy
    Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy

    The Sandiganbayan has recommended executive clemency for a former Philippine ambassador to Nigeria who was sentenced to 52 years for malversation of public funds. The Sandiganbayan First Division found Masaranga Umpa guilty of misusing the Assistance-To-Nationals Stand-by Funds totaling $80,478.80 in 2007, but the anti-graft court said the former assemblyman from Lanao del Norte should be pardoned. …

  • Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour
    Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour

    It was a night of stargazing in 58 SM Supermalls all over the country last night as these establishments participated in Earth Hour, an annual worldwide movement encouraging communities and establishments to switch off lights for one hour to raise global awareness of overuse of non-renewable resources. The Philippines has been an active participant of Earth Hour since 2008. Last night, in the province of Bulacan, for instance, all parishes, diocesan institutions, schools and household …

  • Payanig privatization hit
    Payanig privatization hit

    BLEMP Commercial of the Philippines, Inc. (BLEMP) denounced the recent announcement of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to privatize the 18.4-hectare “Payanig sa Pasig” property. In a statement sent to The STAR, BLEMP lawyer Dennis Manalo said the PCGG has no right to auction the property because it has no valid title and is not in possession. The PCGG has not paid a single centavo in real property taxes for the property, he said. He narrated that it was in the early 70s …

  • New species of tarantula found
    New species of tarantula found

    Scientists from the Museum of Natural History (MNH) of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños have discovered a new species of cave-dwelling tarantula on an island off the coast of Quezon. The new species of the spider, Phlogiellus kwebaburdeos, was described in the recent issue of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology by MNH curators for spiders Aimee Lynn Dupo and Alberto Barrion along with their former student Joseph Rasalan. The tarantula was discovered by Rasalan during one …

  • Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others
    Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others

    As Christendom enters Holy Week today, Palm Sunday, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday called on the faithful not to add to the sufferings of their fellowmen. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA), said that while Palm Sunday is oftentimes remembered as the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, it also signals the start of the Holy Week that tells of His suffering, death and …

  • Miriam pushes tougher graft law
    Miriam pushes tougher graft law

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill that would make public officials liable for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act even if they are elected to a fresh term or a new position. In filing Senate Bill 2716, Santiago sought to address what she said was the doctrine of condonation in Philippine jurisprudence brought about by the 2010 case of Salumbides vs. Ombudsman. “By merely asserting the doctrine of condonation, erring elective officials are automatically given a …

  • Phl hits back at China over sea infra work
    Phl hits back at China over sea infra work

    The Philippines assailed China yesterday for contesting Manila’s planned repair and maintenance works on some islands in the West Philippine Sea, saying they are “in no way comparable” to the Asian power’s massive reclamation activities which are in violation of international laws. “The Philippines’ possible undertaking of necessary maintenance and repairs on its existing facilities in the West Philippine Sea, over which the Philippines rightfully exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options