The evolution of self-control

Evan L. MacLean, Brian Hare, Charles L. Nun, Elsa Addess, Federica Amic, Rindy C. Anderson, Filippo Aureli, Joseph M. Baker, Amanda E. Bania, Allison M. Barnard, Neeltje J. Boogert, Elizabeth M. Brannon, Emily E. Bray, Joel Bray, Lauren J.N. Brent, Judith M. Burkart, Josep Call, Jessica F. Cantlo, Lucy G. Chek, Nicola S. ClaytonMikel M. Delgado, Louis J. DiVincenti, Kazuo Fujita, Esther Herrman, Chihiro Hiramatsu, Lucia F. Jacobs, Kerry E. Jordan, Jennifer R. Laude, Kristin L. Leimgruber, Emily J.E. Messer, Antonio C. Antonio, Ljerka Ostojic, Alejandra Picard, Michael L. Platt, Joshua M. Plotnik, Friederike Range, Simon M. Reader, Rachna B. Reddy, Aaron A. Sandel, Laurie R. Santos, Katrin Schuman, Amanda M. See, Kendra B. Sewal, Rachael C. Sha, Katie E. Slocomb, Yanjie Su, Ayaka Takimot, Jingzhi Tan, Ruoting Tao, Carel P. Van Schai, Zsófia Virányi, Elisabetta Visalberghi, Jordan C. Wad, Arii Watanab, Jane Widnes, Julie K. Young, Thomas R. Zental, Yini Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

250 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Cognition presents evolutionary research with one of its greatest challenges. Cognitive evolution has been explained at the proximate level by shifts in absolute and relative brain volume and at the ultimate level by differences in social and dietary complexity. However, no study has integrated the experimental and phylogenetic approach at the scale required to rigorously test these explanations. Instead, previous research has largely relied on various measures of brain size as proxies for cognitive abilities. We experimentally evaluated these major evolutionary explanations by quantitatively comparing the cognitive performance of 567 individuals representing 36 species on two problem-solving tasks measuring self-control. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that absolute brain volume best predicted performance across species and accounted for considerably more variance than brain volume controlling for body mass. This result corroborates recent advances in evolutionary neurobiology and illustrates the cognitive consequences of cortical reorganization through increases in brain volume. Within primates, dietary breadth but not social group size was a strong predictor of species differences in self-control. Our results implicate robust evolutionary relationships between dietary breadth, absolute brain volume, and self-control. These findings provide a significant first step toward quantifying the primate cognitive phenome and explaining the process of cognitive evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2140-E2148
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume111
Issue number20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 20 2014

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Brain
Primates
Aptitude
Neurobiology
Proxy
Research
Cognition
Self-Control

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Cite this

MacLean, E. L., Hare, B., Nun, C. L., Addess, E., Amic, F., Anderson, R. C., ... Zhao, Y. (2014). The evolution of self-control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(20), E2140-E2148. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1323533111

The evolution of self-control. / MacLean, Evan L.; Hare, Brian; Nun, Charles L.; Addess, Elsa; Amic, Federica; Anderson, Rindy C.; Aureli, Filippo; Baker, Joseph M.; Bania, Amanda E.; Barnard, Allison M.; Boogert, Neeltje J.; Brannon, Elizabeth M.; Bray, Emily E.; Bray, Joel; Brent, Lauren J.N.; Burkart, Judith M.; Call, Josep; Cantlo, Jessica F.; Chek, Lucy G.; Clayton, Nicola S.; Delgado, Mikel M.; DiVincenti, Louis J.; Fujita, Kazuo; Herrman, Esther; Hiramatsu, Chihiro; Jacobs, Lucia F.; Jordan, Kerry E.; Laude, Jennifer R.; Leimgruber, Kristin L.; Messer, Emily J.E.; Antonio, Antonio C.; Ostojic, Ljerka; Picard, Alejandra; Platt, Michael L.; Plotnik, Joshua M.; Range, Friederike; Reader, Simon M.; Reddy, Rachna B.; Sandel, Aaron A.; Santos, Laurie R.; Schuman, Katrin; See, Amanda M.; Sewal, Kendra B.; Sha, Rachael C.; Slocomb, Katie E.; Su, Yanjie; Takimot, Ayaka; Tan, Jingzhi; Tao, Ruoting; Van Schai, Carel P.; Virányi, Zsófia; Visalberghi, Elisabetta; Wad, Jordan C.; Watanab, Arii; Widnes, Jane; Young, Julie K.; Zental, Thomas R.; Zhao, Yini.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 111, No. 20, 20.05.2014, p. E2140-E2148.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

MacLean, EL, Hare, B, Nun, CL, Addess, E, Amic, F, Anderson, RC, Aureli, F, Baker, JM, Bania, AE, Barnard, AM, Boogert, NJ, Brannon, EM, Bray, EE, Bray, J, Brent, LJN, Burkart, JM, Call, J, Cantlo, JF, Chek, LG, Clayton, NS, Delgado, MM, DiVincenti, LJ, Fujita, K, Herrman, E, Hiramatsu, C, Jacobs, LF, Jordan, KE, Laude, JR, Leimgruber, KL, Messer, EJE, Antonio, AC, Ostojic, L, Picard, A, Platt, ML, Plotnik, JM, Range, F, Reader, SM, Reddy, RB, Sandel, AA, Santos, LR, Schuman, K, See, AM, Sewal, KB, Sha, RC, Slocomb, KE, Su, Y, Takimot, A, Tan, J, Tao, R, Van Schai, CP, Virányi, Z, Visalberghi, E, Wad, JC, Watanab, A, Widnes, J, Young, JK, Zental, TR & Zhao, Y 2014, 'The evolution of self-control', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111, no. 20, pp. E2140-E2148. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1323533111
MacLean EL, Hare B, Nun CL, Addess E, Amic F, Anderson RC et al. The evolution of self-control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014 May 20;111(20):E2140-E2148. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1323533111
MacLean, Evan L. ; Hare, Brian ; Nun, Charles L. ; Addess, Elsa ; Amic, Federica ; Anderson, Rindy C. ; Aureli, Filippo ; Baker, Joseph M. ; Bania, Amanda E. ; Barnard, Allison M. ; Boogert, Neeltje J. ; Brannon, Elizabeth M. ; Bray, Emily E. ; Bray, Joel ; Brent, Lauren J.N. ; Burkart, Judith M. ; Call, Josep ; Cantlo, Jessica F. ; Chek, Lucy G. ; Clayton, Nicola S. ; Delgado, Mikel M. ; DiVincenti, Louis J. ; Fujita, Kazuo ; Herrman, Esther ; Hiramatsu, Chihiro ; Jacobs, Lucia F. ; Jordan, Kerry E. ; Laude, Jennifer R. ; Leimgruber, Kristin L. ; Messer, Emily J.E. ; Antonio, Antonio C. ; Ostojic, Ljerka ; Picard, Alejandra ; Platt, Michael L. ; Plotnik, Joshua M. ; Range, Friederike ; Reader, Simon M. ; Reddy, Rachna B. ; Sandel, Aaron A. ; Santos, Laurie R. ; Schuman, Katrin ; See, Amanda M. ; Sewal, Kendra B. ; Sha, Rachael C. ; Slocomb, Katie E. ; Su, Yanjie ; Takimot, Ayaka ; Tan, Jingzhi ; Tao, Ruoting ; Van Schai, Carel P. ; Virányi, Zsófia ; Visalberghi, Elisabetta ; Wad, Jordan C. ; Watanab, Arii ; Widnes, Jane ; Young, Julie K. ; Zental, Thomas R. ; Zhao, Yini. / The evolution of self-control. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014 ; Vol. 111, No. 20. pp. E2140-E2148.
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abstract = "Cognition presents evolutionary research with one of its greatest challenges. Cognitive evolution has been explained at the proximate level by shifts in absolute and relative brain volume and at the ultimate level by differences in social and dietary complexity. However, no study has integrated the experimental and phylogenetic approach at the scale required to rigorously test these explanations. Instead, previous research has largely relied on various measures of brain size as proxies for cognitive abilities. We experimentally evaluated these major evolutionary explanations by quantitatively comparing the cognitive performance of 567 individuals representing 36 species on two problem-solving tasks measuring self-control. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that absolute brain volume best predicted performance across species and accounted for considerably more variance than brain volume controlling for body mass. This result corroborates recent advances in evolutionary neurobiology and illustrates the cognitive consequences of cortical reorganization through increases in brain volume. Within primates, dietary breadth but not social group size was a strong predictor of species differences in self-control. Our results implicate robust evolutionary relationships between dietary breadth, absolute brain volume, and self-control. These findings provide a significant first step toward quantifying the primate cognitive phenome and explaining the process of cognitive evolution.",
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AU - Aureli, Filippo

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