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.
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