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• increasing the fitness of the group.

Altruism obviously increases the fitness of the group, but decreases the fitness of individuals what

at first glance conflicts with the theory of evolution and natural selection. But there are three attempts

to explain why individuals decrease their fitness for the fitness of a group, namely

1. group selection,

2. kin selection and

3. reciprocal behaviour

which will be explained in more detail in chapter Evolutionary Perspective on Social Cognitions.

We will focus here on reciprocal behaviour with regard to problem solving.

Reciprocal Behaviour

Why should an individual behave altruistic if it cannot be sure whether its recipient will also

behave altruistic or not? Reciprocity is one explanation for these phenomena. That is, an altruistic

individual will only offer an altruistic act to an individual which is known to be altruistic and will

withhold altruistic behaviour to individuals which only act selfish. This exception prevents altruists

from extinction and allows them to spread in population, but it presupposes that both individuals

interact more than once and that they are able to recognize each other.

We can distinguish two types of reciprocal behaviour: direct and indirect reciprocity. The direct

one is an exchange of altruistic behaviour between the same two individuals ("I scratch your back and

you'll scratch mine") whereas the indirect one is between different individuals ("I scratch your back and

someone will scratch mine"). The latter is even more complicated to explain, but it is a fundamental

trait in our contemporary society. The basic idea to explain these phenomena is the development of

reputation in society. That is, altruists decide whether or not to interact with someone according to the

reputation of an individual.

(Iterative) Prisoner's Dilemma

The problem of cooperation is also topic in game theory a branch of applied mathematics where

players try to maximize their winnings. There are many convergences between the theory of reciprocity

and game theory, one famous example is the prisoner's dilemma. Two people A and B have been

captured by the police, they committed a crime but the police is not able to proof that they are guilty,

but they have enough evidence to arrest them for six months. Before A and B have been captured by

the police they both agreed to keep silent. At the police department they were questioned in separate

rooms and both have the choice to cooperate with his partner or with the police. If one betrays the other

he will get free and his partner will have to serve for ten years. If they both betray each other they will

both have to serve for two years. But if both keep silent, they only have to serve for six months.

Prisoner B

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Stays Silent


Prisoner A serves ten

Stays Silent Both serve six months



Prisoner B goes free


Prisoner A goes free


Prisoner B serves ten

Both serve two years


The dilemma is that both accused people do not know how the other has decided or will decide.

Regardless how the other will decide, confessing the crime will improve the outcome. If A betrays B, A

will get free or he will stay in prison for two years. If he does not betray B, A will stay in prison for six

months or ten years depending on however B decides. So obviously the best choice is to betray the

other. There is an interesting extension of the dilemma called iterative prisoner's dilemma. The game is

played again and again so it is possible to punish selfish behaviour in order to support altruism. One

good strategy for the iterative prisoner's dilemma is tit-for-tat. At the first round this strategy suggests

to cooperate with the partner. All other rounds one will do whatever the partner did in the round before.

If someone betrays his partner, he will get punished next round. On the other hand, if someone always

acts altruistic he will get paid back. This strategy is nothing but reciprocity.


When bringing Problem Solving and evolution together, explaining consciousness is an important

point to understand how we have come this far. The answer shall be given in three steps: (1) The

advantages that consciousness gave us during the evolutionary process. (2) The observations, through

which neuropsychology has approached consciousness. Observations of various kinds of impairment

like blindsight, commissurotomy, hemineglect, anosognosia, and also another approach called “binding

problem” which tries to explain how distributed activities of neurons make up conscious perception by

means of EEG monitoring. (3) Finally, what is probably the most controversial step, dealing with some

suggestions of how consciousness is involved in Problem Solving, namely (psycho-)functionalism,

metacognition and situation models.

Evolution of Consciousness

When trying to explain consciousness from an evolutionary perspective, there are two possible

options of approach. Either you specify the function of consciousness and thus give reasons for an

evolutionary progress or you explain how our abilities we gained through evolution made it inevitable

to make us conscious. Furthermore, it has to be considered at what time consciousness may have

appeared, that is where we can find consciousness in animals. While the first two theories presented

here will give reasons for why the function of consciousness has some benefits, the third theory is more

about the development of the brain that was not caused by any benefits of cognition but nevertheless

enabled the emergence of consciousness.

( direct source [1])

As a pioneer in this field, William James (1890)[2]  argued that evolution pushes the behaviour of an organism into a direction that is of interest for it. The brain was seen as an instrument to make

predictions and therefore also having the ability to choose among many possibilities. So consciousness

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Problem Solving from an Evolutionary Perspective

is involved in reinforcing the favourable possibilities while repressing the unfavourable. James assumes

that the evolution of consciousness happened at the same time at which the cerebrum had evolved. It

allowed to selectively guide the nervous system in an environment that became more and more

complex throughout evolution (1890/1891, p. 147)[2].

James distinguishes three classes of animal consciousness. The first class contains bilateral

invertebrates (earthworms, leeches, spiders, and insects) that show a centralisation of the nervous

system. The main criterion for this class is the differentiation between having a sensation and not

having that particular sensation. Although this can only be considered as a primitive mental state, the

detection of stimuli is thought to be a condition for consciousness. An example of scientific

investigation was done by Keunzi and Carew (1991)[3]  showing that the marine snail Aplysia californica reacted differently to light from various directions and could also be trained to behave in a

certain way through conditioning.

The second class contains animals that do not only remember previous experiences but are also

capable of equate them with present experiences. They are able to copy a model or in other words

imitate a behaviour which is regarded as the beginning of conceptual thought. Here the animal class of

cephalopods should be mentioned. Octopus vulgaris which belongs to this class was examined by

Fiorito and Scotto (1992)[4].  They separated the octopuses into the “demonstrator” and “observer”

group. The “demonstrator” group was trained with conditioning techniques to attack either a white or a

red ball when offered both. Then an octopus of the “observer” group watched an octopus from the

“demonstrator” group attacking a ball with the specific colour. The “observers” imitated the attacking

behaviour rapidly, however they sometimes chose the ball with the respective other colour. Because of

this choice, it is assumed that a primitive form of consciousness is involved.

The third class entails humans as well as great-apes (gorillas, orang-utans, chimpanzees) and

cetaceans (whales, dolphins). In comparison to other animals they all possess a larger surface area of

the cerebrum, the neocortex. The main feature of this class is the capability of self-consciousness which

is according to James a more complex form. Gallup (1970)[5]  introduced an experiment to find out whether animals or infants are able to distinguish “me” from “not me”. Red dye is put on the forehead

that can not be recognized except with the aid of a mirror. However, it is in question whether this

method can be seen as a test for self-consciousness in the sense that there is an awareness of one's own


These three classes were shortly presented because later, in the third part of the subtopic of

consciousness, we will introduce a general definition for consciousness which will give us a different

but quite similar classification and a suggestion of how to overcome this last problem.

( Blackmore, S. J., 2004 [6])

Another theory that contributes to the idea of consciousness having a function is held by Nicholas

Humphrey. The main thesis is that consciousness has a social function. While animals like

chimpanzees live in a social environment, humans are highly specialized to social skills. Humphrey

believes that skills like understanding, predicting and manipulating the behaviour of others became

necessary for our ancestors because, in a group, they were facing situations like deciding whether a

group member is a friend or an enemy or when they should form alliances etc. He calls our ancestors

having evolved this way “natural scientists”.

How consciousness could have had influenced this can be shown by considering the following

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scenario. Imagine an early hominid Suzy seeing Mick with a large piece of food, with him sits her

friend Sally. Suzy thinks about distracting Mick so that Sally could grab the food. But first she needs to

ask herself various questions like “Is Sally going to share the food with her”. In other words, she needs

to put herself into the position of another person. Thus our ancestors developed a self-reflexive insight

or an “inner eye” that gives us a perception like other sense organs, however, not of the outer world but

of one's own brain activities (1986[7]; 2002[8]).  According to this theory consciousness can be attributed to social creatures like great-apes, elephants, wolves and dolphins. But it would also claim

that most creatures are not conscious.

The third theory which gains support from Robert Ornstein (1991)[9]  is mainly about the necessity to withstand heat mainly for purposes of our head which means that the growth of the brain about 2

million years ago was caused neither by social nor cultural but physiological adaptation. The reason for

this assumption is that the increasing size of the brain happened in advance of human characteristics.

First, the importance of cooling the head shall be emphasized. Human beings are sensitive to high

temperatures because a rise of 1 or 2ºC above normal can disturb brain functions and a rise of 4ºC can

cause a heat stroke. In addition, human beings lack a cooling system like dogs for example, they have a

special blood circuitry which cools the blood when they start panting. One way to achieve cooling is an

upright posture. It is assumed that bipedalism was influenced by a climate change that due to its dry

conditions thinned the forests. Thus, hunting became a more reliable source for food than plants. But it

also caused the temperature to rise in our body. An upright posture had the effect that at noon the sun

hit a much smaller surface and more of our body mass is above the hot ground that had a vegetation of

50 cm (adopted from Peter Wheeler). After this evolutionary step it took about one million years until

the brain started to grow. Anthropologist Dean Falk assumes that during this time our ancestors

developed the net of emissary veins that lead in and out of the brain. In normal circulation these veins

carry heated blood from the brain out to the surface of the skull in order to cool it down. If the brain

temperature rises due to exercise like conditions, the blood flow in these veins reverses.

The second method our ancestors developed to withstand heat is increasing the cortical size

(Konrad Fialkowski, 1986)[10].  On the one hand this enhances the cooling effect of the emissary veins mentioned before. On the other hand the abundance of neurons made it possible that other areas of the

brain could take over tasks when there was a loss of neurons. An indication for such a development is

that a small piece of the cortex looks like any other piece and except for the size it is even similar to

that of other species. Also the density of the neurons is almost the same as for example in chimpanzees.

This development could explain how the human brain gained a parallel organization which is

preliminary for complex thought. The oversupply of supporting cells (glia) might have allowed more

interconnections between neurons due to the space they fill up.

Compared to the previous theories consciousness has no function but is a result of the evolution of

the brain. It is important to see that evolution as such is independent of intellect. We will come back to

this later in part three because this hint is essential for the definition of consciousness and will be

discussed in the short remarks on functionalism.

Neuropsychology and Consciousness

In philosophy there are many notions of consciousness. The topics of the second part are most

likely ascribed to phenomenal consciousness which is about our subjective experiences. However,

philosophers like John Searle and Thomas Nagel list three features of consciousness that seem to be

essential: subjectivity, unity and intentionality. First we will deal with unity also referred to as the

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Problem Solving from an Evolutionary Perspective

“binding problem”.

The model of Wolf Singer[11]  tries to explain the binding problem with a concept other than the classical one. The classical concept says that cognitive operation is the generation of explicit neuronal

representations. These representations are realized by individual neurons that are tuned to particular

constellations of input activity. Specificity is gained through selective convergence of input

connections in hierarchically structured feed-forward architectures. But according to Singer this view

has several disadvantages. It requires a high number of neurons and seems to be inappropriate for the

encoding of syntactical structure and hierarchical relations of elements composed in a perceived object

(Roelfsema, P.R., Engel, A.K., Koenig, P. & W. Singer, 1996)[12].

So the concept suggested by Singer is a distributed dynamical process which relies on self-

organization. It is assumed that neurons are associated with so called functionally coherent assemblies

that represent objects. The advantage is that one neuron can participate in different assemblies. Each

neuron is tuned only to a subset of elementary features (colour, movement, orientation). This concept

may be strong enough to explain phenomenal consciousness due to the combinatorial complexity and

flexibility. In contrast single neurons show little difference in sleeping or anesthetized animals.

Now two important questions arise. What is the mechanism of selection that dynamically separates

one assembly into two and how is an assembly labelled in order to be recognized by subsequent

processes. To give an answer to the first question there are three possibilities. First, the inhibition of

non-grouped responses, second, the selected response can be amplified and third, the selected cells fire

in synchrony. However, it is unlikely that the modulation of discharge rates (action potential) is

involved for the following reasons. An explanation of this type leads to ambiguities when considering

the second question of how neurons are labelled. In addition, the processing time would be too high

because for evaluation the action potentials first need to be integrated. Also different assemblies can

not co-exist in time if they share the same neurons. Otherwise they would not be indistinguishable. This

would only allow a sequential processing.

The main hypothesis is that selection and labelling is achieved through the synchronization which

comes in with several advantages. It is independent of the firing rate of single neurons and can be used

in parallel. Assemblies can follow one another much faster (Singer, 1999/2000)[13]  and output activity has a high precision because of minimal latency jitter (Abeles, M. 1982[14]; Softky, W. 1994[15];

Koenig, P., A.K. Engel & W. Singer, 1996[16]).  The processing speed increases because synchronized

EPSPs trigger action potentials with a minimal delay.

With this hypothesis some preliminaries for selection have to be considered. Neurons must be

sensible to detect coincident synaptic input. Further, they have to be able to coordinate rapidly in a

context dependent way. One example of neurons working with high precision is the auditory nucleus

where delays in the sub millisecond range are evaluated. Another example is the oscillatory responses

of retinal ganglion cells which are transmitted to cortical neurons (Castelo-Branco, M., S.

Neuenschwander & W. Singer, 1998)[17].  When awake these oscillatory patterns are in the gamma frequency range of 30-60 Hz (also see Crick, F. & Koch, C., 1990)[18].  In many experiments rapid synchronization has been observed in the visual cortex of cats. Fluctuations of the local field potential

shifted the response latency accordingly to the polarization of the potential. In other words, these sub

threshold oscillations can cause a delay in the response and thus are responsible for synchronization


Coming back to the binding problem, we can examine it with the study of attention. Attention can

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facilitate synchronization. In one experiment cats were trained to react to visual stimuli with a motor

response. When they focused their attention, cortical areas that are involved in the execution of the task

synchronized their activity. Immediately after the stimulus was shown, synchronization further

increased. Thus, attention has the functional role of expectancy. It acts like a dynamic filter which in

advance selects neurons that participate in the execution and therefore accomplishes binding.

Now we will have a look an various brain damages which reveal additional insights in the subject

of consciousness.


Lawrence Weiskrantz (1986[19]; 1997[20]) had been studying a patient called D.B. who lost vision in a large part of his left visual field due to the removal of a tumor that was in an area of his

visual cortex. In an experiment a circle containing stripes was shown to him in the blind field. He said

that he could not see anything within this area, for he was blind there. However, when he was asked to

guess whether the orientation of the stripes is either vertical or horizontal, he answers correctly in 90-

95 % of the time. (compare with hemineglect below)

Commissurotomy (split-brain)[6]

In the 1960s operations severing the corpus callosum had been carried out. This should prevent

epileptic seizures spreading from one hemisphere to the other as the corpus callosum is the primary

root where both hemispheres can interact. When the patients recovered they performed equally well on

problem solving tasks and language as before. When considering the visual pathway, a cut through the

corpus callosum prevents information from going from one side to the other (see picture). This affects

paths that start from the nasal side. So one hemisphere will only receive information from the

contralateral side of the visual field (here: left hemisphere only blue path, right hemisphere only red


Patient P.S. was shown a snow scene on the left side (right hemisphere) and a chicken claw on the

right side (left hemisphere). Because the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, he pointed

to a shovel with the left hand and to a chicken with the right hand. When he was asked why, he said,

“The chicken claw goes with the chicken, and you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed” (after

Gazzaniga & LeDoux, 1992). Other experiments show that this confabulation is common. No patient

would admit that they have a split brain but invent a story that seems plausible to their reaction.


Patients that suffer from hemineglect ignore or pay no attention to the side of space contralateral to

the lesion. For example when asked to copy a picture of a clock, they may only be able to draw the

right half which in this case would be caused by a lesion in the right hemisphere. Hemineglect occurs

within different frames which means that the symptom occurs with regard to the horizontal plan (left-

right) or the vertical plane (top-bottom) or to non spacial frameworks which can be object based (e.g.


Each hemisphere seems to have an attentional bias on the contralateral side. This can be seen when

you compare a chimeric picture containing a face that has a smile on the left side with the same picture

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Problem Solving from an Evolutionary Perspective

mirrored. If you are right-handed which means that your emotional interpretation is better in the right

hemisphere, you will perceive the first picture as being happier (Levy, J., Heller, W., Banich, M.T. &

Burton, L.A., 1983)[22].   Another property is that lesion in the right hemisphere are more severe causing patients to slow on response time. In an experiment (Weintraub, S. & Mesulam, M. 1987)[23]  where patience with left- and right-hemisphere damage and intact persons (control group) should mark

items on a display, patients performed worse on the neglected hemispace respectively. However,

patients with a right hemisphere lesion performed even worse than those with left hemisphere lesion.

There are two possibilities to explain this. First, the attention bias is greater in the right hemisphere and

second, the attention drops towards the ipsilateral side of each hemisphere while the right hemisphere

does so with a higher gradient.

What is interesting is that patients still seem to process information of the neglected field. When

patients were shown two pictures, the first presented 400 ms earlier in the neglected field, they

responded faster if those pictures were related although they were not aware of the first one (Berti, A.

& Rizzolatti, G., 1992)[24].


The unawareness of once disabilities is called anosognosia (Damasio, A., 1999[25]; Weiskrantz, L., 1997[20]).  It occurs with the damage to particular parts of the right parietal lobe. For example patients who are unable to stand up still insist that they would be able to and at the same time make

excuses that they cannot get out of bed. There are extreme cases like a blind patient told that he enjoyed

watching TV (Sacks, O., 1992)[26].

Problem Solving and Consciousness

An explanation why consciousness plays an important role in the process of problem solving in

itself leads to a problem because without a clear concept of consciousness one can always verify or

deny its purpose. Therefore we will state a definition not claiming that it is correct but can be a ground

of our discussion. It seems that such a definition presupposes that there is an objective description of a

subjective experience. However, our approach assumes that consciousness is not the same as subjective

experience and thereby explain consciousness without explaining why perception has a qualitative

character. Nevertheless, we will also explain how sensations are related to consciousness.

To start up from the bottom, we will just ask whether a stone is conscious. Simply 'no' because

stones are not alive. So what does life mean? Def.: Life is the part of the phenotype which is solely

determined by the genotype excluding environmental influences on both phenotype and genotype

(Mendel's law, mutation, genetic engineering). We can consciously change both and therefore we have

to exclude them from definition. Otherwise we could not differentiate between life and consciousness.

It does not mean that life cannot undergo an evolutionary process.

On the next level we have modalities which are experienced in a subjective way. The difference

between creatures that are merely alive and creatures that can also perceive is that the former can only

adapt through evolution whereas the latter can adapt during lifetime. An example for the first group is a

virus while Aplysia californica would belong to the second group. The main idea is the ability to

establish a representation of the environment. Through evolution these representations can gain an

interpretative value for example the face of a tiger is interpreted as being dangerous (this idea goes

back to Gerald Edelman). So we may conclude that sensations are representations plus their

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interpretations are accomplished is

still unknown.

Finally, we will just define

consciousness in a way we can deal

with it. Def.: Consciousness is the

ability to establish structured

sensations. The first notable property

would therefore be that

consciousness itself cannot be

perceived. If you imagine that it is a

structure, you might say it is

perceivable but this for itself is not

consciousness because it is just a

semantic content as described below.

So how do we understand this

structure. It can be thought of as an

axiomatic system where we can give

content a meaning, that is we know

what the world has to be like to

fulfill a sentence of this system (see

Ludwig Wittgenstein). From this we

conclude that our sensations Consciousness diagram ( GFDL - Marc Heimann)

compose a semantic content

(binding). Unfortunately we would have to guess that this is learned during childhood. One example is

visual object recognition. We will show later that consciousness should not be defined over objects but,

as we already did, over sensations. Then we may conclude that we have the possibility to transcend

various systems because semantic and syntax are both realized on the sensational level. This allows us

to perform metacognitive tasks because we can switch syntax to the roll of semantic enabling us to

solve problems in a way that differs from evolution for it is done on a symbolic level. One example of

how this definition can be applied is linguistic. Linguistic shows that there are various levels of

processing like morphology, syntax, semantic, pragmatic. These levels altogether compose a system

that contributes all its aspects for evaluating the meaning of a sentence.


Defining consciousness as an ability to structure sensations, confabulation in this sense can be seen

as its performance. People try to give something a meaning and it is important to see that they can do

so despite the lack of information. Confabulation is a constructive process which can be performed

without semantic content. Blindsight and hemineglect show that patients can perceive sensations

(orientation, color, emotional expression). But they are unable to recognize objects which means that

semantic content may not affect consciousness. Due to this double dissociation we can conclude that

consciousness is independent of semantic content. Now we can say that problem solving may happen

unconsciously for example when riding a bike. This can be accomplished due to plasticity (Kandel, E.

R., Schwartz, J. H., Jessell, T. M., 2000)[27].  However, we suggest that consciousness must be involved when we face new problems. We will show examples where consciousness is useful and one

example where it is inevitable.

22 | Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience

Problem Solving from an Evolutionary Perspective


We will consider two questions. The first is how cognition can have a function that is relevant for

the evolutionary process. The evolutionary process has to be viewed very precisely. It does not act

upon individuals but upon generations of individuals. Next, the genetic information of an individual is

randomly chosen from its parents which means that there is no preference of any feature in the genetic

code (Ornstein, R., 1991)[9].  If you imagine the evolutionary process as a tree, cognition virtually increases the branching factor because individuals having a lifetime adaption may better cope with

environmental obstacles. Thus, cognition does not influence evolution but having cognition does. This

leads us to the next question asking how functionalism would allow subjective experience when it

actually states that on certain inputs there will be definite outputs. Indeed the answer is already given

with the distinction of evolutionary adaption and lifetime adaption. The abilities of cognition with

regard to the evolutionary process have nothing to do with the abilities of an individual to perceive.


1. ↑  Nielsen, M. (?) William James and the evolution of consciousness. La Trobe University.

Retrieved May 20, 2006 from

2.  2.0 2.1  James, W. (1890/1981). The principles of psychology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

3.  ↑ Keunzi, F. M., & Carew, T .J. (1991). Aplysia californica. Behavioral and Neural Biology, 55 (3), 338-355.

4.  ↑ Fiorito, G., & Scotto, P. (1992). Observational learning in Octopus vulgaris. Science, 256, 545-547.

5.  ↑ Gallup, G. G., Jr. (1970). Chimpanzees: Self-recognition. Science, 167, 341-343.

6.  6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Blackmore, S. J. (2004). Consciousness : An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

7.  ↑ Humphrey, N. (1986). The Inner Eye. London: Faber & Faber 8. ↑  Humphrey, N. (2002). The Mind made Flesh: Frontiers of Psychology and Evolution.

Oxford: Oxford University Press.

9.  9.0 9.1 Ornstein, R. (1991). Evolution of Consciousness: The Origins of the Way We Think.

New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

10. ↑  Fialkowski, K. (1986) A mechanism for the origin of the human brain: A hypothesis.

Current Anthropology, 28, 540-43

11. ↑  Singer, W. (?) Consciousness and the Binding Problem. Max Planck Institute for Brain Research. Retrieved May 20, 2006 from

12. ↑  Roelfsema, P.R., Engel, A.K., Koenig, P. & W. Singer. 1996. The role of neuronal synchronization in response selection: a biologically plausible theory of structured

representation in the visual cortex. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 8, 603-625.

13. ↑  Singer, W. 1999/2000. Response synchronization: A universal coding strategy for the definition of relations. In The New Cognitive Neurosciences, Second Edition. M.S. Gazzaniga,

Ed.: 325-338. MIT-Press. Cambridge, MA.

14. ↑  Abeles, M. 1982. Role of the cortical neuron: integrator or coincidence detector? Isr. J.

Med. Sci. 18, 83-92.

15. ↑  Softky, W. 1994. Sub-millisecond coincidence detection in active dendritic trees.

Neuroscience 58, 13-41.

16.  ↑ Koenig, P., A.K. Engel & W. Singer. 1996. Integrator or coincidence detector? The role of

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the cortical neuron revisited. Trends Neurosci. 19, 130-137.

17. ↑  Castelo-Branco, M., S. Neuenschwander & W. Singer. 1998. Synchronization of visual responses between the cortex, lateral geniculate nucleus, and retina in the anesthetized cat. J.

Neurosci. 18, 6395-6410.

18. ↑  Crick, F & C. Koch, C. (1990) Towards a neurobiological theory of consciousness.

Seminars in the Neurosciences, 2, 263-75

19. ↑  Weiskrantz, L. (1986) Blindsight: A Case Study and Implications. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

20.  20.0 20.1 Weiskrantz, L. (1997) Consciousness Lost and Found. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

21. ↑  Banich, M. T. (2004) Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology (2nd ed). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company

22. ↑  Levy, J., Heller, W., Banich, M.T. & Burton, L.A. (1983) Asymmetry of perception in free viewing of chimeric faces. Brain and Cognition, 2, 404-419

23. ↑  Weintraub, S. & Mesulam, M. (1987). Right cerebral dominance in spatial attention.

Archives of Neurology, 44, 621-625.

24. ↑  Berti, A. & Rizzolatti, G. (1992). Visual processing without awareness: Evidence from unilateral neglect. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 4, 345-351.

25. ↑  Damasio, A. (1999) The Feeling of what happens: Body, Emotion and the making of Consciousness. London: Heinemann.

26.  ↑ Sacks, O. (1992) the last hippie. New York Review of Books 39 (26 March), 51-60

27. ↑  Kandel, E. R., Schwartz, J. H., Jessell, T. M. (2000). Principles of Neural Science, 4th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill

• Carruthers, P. & Chamberlain, A. (2001). Evolution and the Human Mind: Modularity,

Language and Meta-Cognition.

• Gaulin, S. J. C. & McBurney, D. (2000). Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach

• Goldstein, E. B. (2005). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday

Experience. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth

• Held, C. & Knauff, M. & Vosgerau, G. (2006). Mental Models and the Mind: Current

Developments in Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, and Philosophy of Mind (Advances in

Psychology). Amsterdam: Elsevier B.V.

• Sternberg, R. J. & Davidson, J. E. (1996). The Nature of Insight.


Evolution of Consciousness, by Olivia Moschetti

Consciousness and the Binding Problem, by Prof. Dr. Wolf Singer

Mental Models, by Philip N. Johnson-Laird

live version • discussion • edit lesson • comment • report an error

24 | Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience


Evolutionary Perspective on Social Cognitions



live version • discussion • edit lesson • comment • report an error


he term “social cognition” describes all abilities necessary to act

Tadequately in a social system.The understanding of a social environment

presupposes representations of the other agents as intentional and goal-

directed. Social cognition is a common skill among various species, however

we can observe distinct levels of complexity. As proposed by Tomasello

(2004), we can distinguish between the following degrees (sorted by

increasing sophistication):

• Dyadic engagement: Sharing behavior and emotions; Direct

interaction of two animate agents.

• Tryadic engagement: Sharing goals and perception; Some goal Caricature of Charles

directed agents acting together towards some shared goal.

Darwin himself

• Collaborative engagement: Joint intentions and attention; Two or more agents acting (in

complementary roles), according to a coordinated action plan with mutual knowledge and

the possibility of helping the other in his role.

The latter is considered to be the crucial difference between humans and all other species: Human

beings possess a uniqe motivation to share psychological states with other persons.

When we describe psychological features of animals or humans, and we accept evolution as the

process which designs everything in biosphere, the question arises whether psychological

characteristics and their development are explainable in terms of genetic variation and natural selection.

There are three main-theories of evolutionary development of the social structure of modern man:

1. group selection,

2. kin selection,

3. reciprocal altruism

From selection to sociality

While we behold development of life on earth, we soon take a evolutionary stance to explain the

change of life over time. That means we try to reconstruct the way life developed on earth and also the

modality of the processes that control these changes. In reference to social behaviour of creatures there