Development of consciousness reconstructed
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and their colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have used comparative psychological research to understand the evolutionary development of consciousness. They found that some of the strategies laid out in evolution are apparently masked very early on by cognitive development in humans.
Daniel Haun and his colleagues studied the cognitive preferences of hominids. They compared all five species of great apes - orangutan, gorilla, bonobo, chimpanzee and human - in their preferences for specific strategies for finding hidden objects. If all five species share certain preferences, the theory goes, these should go back to the last common ancestor, who died out about 15 million years ago. The researchers hid objects coveted by the monkeys in two different ways: In the so-called "place condition", the object could be found in the same place where it had previously been hidden, but now under a different object - such as a stone instead of a stone Box. In the case of the "feature condition", on the other hand, this object remained unchanged, but the location of the hiding place changed.
In fact, all four great apes, as well as one-year-old infants, preferred location as a clue to finding what was hidden, even if it was now hidden under a completely different object. This preference has therefore probably been part of our conscious perception for at least 15 million years. The scientists then examined three-year-old children, who - in contrast to the younger children - regarded the concealing object as the most reliable clue, even if the hiding place was originally in a completely different place. However, year-old infants and great apes do not lack the ability for object-based strategy, they just prefer to use location-based strategy, the researchers said. Further cognitive development in humans eventually leads them to reconsider these preferences. © Max Planck Society
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