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Cognitive Ecology II$
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Reuven Dukas and John M. Ratcliffe

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226169354

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226169378.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 15 September 2019

The Cognitive-Buffer Hypothesis for the Evolution of Large Brains

The Cognitive-Buffer Hypothesis for the Evolution of Large Brains

Chapter:
(p.111) 7 The Cognitive-Buffer Hypothesis for the Evolution of Large Brains
Source:
Cognitive Ecology II
Author(s):
Daniel Sol
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226169378.003.0007

This chapter relies on recent data to address the old question of why some animals have large brains relative to body size even though such brains incur substantial costs in terms of delayed maturation and high maintenance. It reviews recent studies providing support for the cognitive-buffer hypothesis, which states that a relatively large brain is associated with an enhanced ability to handle novel situations and hence with increased probability of survival in novel or altered environments. The cognitive-buffer hypothesis is the most general explanation for the benefits of the evolution and development of large brains, proposing that a major advantage of a large brain is to produce behavioral responses that protect the animal from the vagaries of the environment. The buffer function of the brain has the potential to generate “autocatalytic” and positive-feedback processes that, although still not well understood, could accelerate brain evolution.

Keywords:   cognitive-buffer hypothesis, large brain, brain evolution, positive-feedback, body size, brain

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