Humans have evolved specialized skills of social cognition: The cultural intelligence hypothesis

Esther Herrmann*, Josep Call, María Victoria Hernández-Lloreda, Brian Hare, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1360-1366
Number of pages7
JournalScience
Volume317
Issue number5843
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2007

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