Nicholas Humphrey’s social intelligence hypothesis proposed that the major engine of primate cognitive evolution was social competition. Lev Vygotsky also emphasized the social dimension of intelligence, but he focused on human primates and cultural things such as collaboration, communication and teaching. A reasonable proposal is that primate cognition in general was driven mainly by social competition, but beyond that the unique aspects of human cognition were driven by, or even constituted by, social cooperation. In the present paper, we provide evidence for this Vygotskian intelligence hypothesis by comparing the social-cognitive skills of great apes with those of young human children in several domains of activity involving cooperation and communication with others. We argue, finally, that regular participation in cooperative, cultural interactions during ontogeny leads children to construct uniquely powerful forms of perspectival cognitive representation.
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