Statistics and Analytical Sciences
It has long been debated whether the mind consists of specialized and independently evolving modules, or whether and to what extent a general factor accounts for the variance in performance across different cognitive domains. In this study, we used a hierarchical Bayesian model to re-analyse individual level data collected on seven primate species (chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, spider monkeys, brown capuchin monkeys and long-tailed macaques) across 17 tasks within four domains (inhibition, memory, transposition and support). Our modelling approach evidenced the existence of both a domain-specific factor and a species factor, each accounting for the same amount (17%) of the observed variance. In contrast, inter-individual differences played a minimal role. These results support the hypothesis that the mind of primates is (at least partially) modular, with domain-specific cognitive skills undergoing different evolutionary pressures in different species in response to specific ecological and social demands.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Amici F, Barney B, Johnson VE, Call J, Aureli F (2012) A Modular Mind? A Test Using Individual Data from Seven Primate Species. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51918. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051918