Environmental Complexity and the Evolution of Cognition

The basic pattern found in the evolution of cognition is a pattern in which individual organisms derive an advantage from cognitive capacities in their attempts to deal with problems and opportunities posed by environmental complexity of various kinds. Cognitive capacities confer this advantage by enabling organisms to coordinate their behavior with the state of the environment. Cognition itself should be thought of as a diverse “tool-kit” of capacities for behavioral control, including capacities for perception, an internal representation of the world, memory, learning, and decision-making. These capacities vary across different types of organism and are not sharply distinguished from other biological capacities, some of which have a “proto-cognitive” character. The “environment” referred to in the Environmental Complexity Thesis – ECT – includes the social environment, and there are some reasons to believe that problems posed by social complexity have been very important in the evolution of primate and human intelligence. Many specific evolutionary scenarios that have been discussed as possible explanations of particular cognitive capacities are instances of the ECT or have the ECT as a part.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
This entry was posted in Cognition, Complexity, Environment, Environmental complexity, Evolution and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.