Large Human Brain Has Evolved to “Size Each Other Up” Quickly & Accurately in Large, Cooperative Social Groups

Humans have evolved a disproportionately large brain, even relative to those in other primates, as a result of sizing each other up in large, cooperative social groups, researchers have proposed. A team, led by computer scientists at Cardiff University in Wales, suggests that the challenge of judging a person's relative standing and deciding whether or not to cooperate with them has promoted the rapid expansion of human brain size over the last 2 million years. In a study published online on August 12, 2016, Scientific Reports the team, which also includes leading evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar from the University of Oxford, specifically found that evolution favors those who prefer to help out others who are at least as successful as themselves. The open-access article is titled “A Dominant Social Comparison Heuristic Unites Alternative Mechanisms for the Evolution of Indirect Reciprocity. The lead author of the study, Professor Roger Whitaker, from Cardiff University's School of Computer Science and Informatics, said: "Our results suggest that the evolution of cooperation, which is key to a prosperous society, is intrinsically linked to the idea of social comparison - constantly sizing each up and making decisions as to whether we want to help them or not. We've shown that, over time, evolution favors strategies to help those who are at least as successful as themselves." In its study, the Cardiff team used computer modeling to run hundreds of thousands of simulations, or “donation games,” to unravel the complexities of decision-making strategies for simplified humans and to establish why certain types of behavior among individuals begins to strengthen over time.
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