Evolution in the social brain

Science. 2007 Sep 7;317(5843):1344-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1145463.


The evolution of unusually large brains in some groups of animals, notably primates, has long been a puzzle. Although early explanations tended to emphasize the brain's role in sensory or technical competence (foraging skills, innovations, and way-finding), the balance of evidence now clearly favors the suggestion that it was the computational demands of living in large, complex societies that selected for large brains. However, recent analyses suggest that it may have been the particular demands of the more intense forms of pairbonding that was the critical factor that triggered this evolutionary development. This may explain why primate sociality seems to be so different from that found in most other birds and mammals: Primate sociality is based on bonded relationships of a kind that are found only in pairbonds in other taxa.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Birds
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mammals
  • Organ Size
  • Pair Bond
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*