Big Brains and the Human Superorganism examines why humans have big brains, what big brains enable us to do, and how specialized brains are associated with eusociality in animals. It explores why brains expanded so slowly, and then why they stopped growing. This book whittles down the theories on brain size evolution to a few that represent testable hypotheses to identify logical and practical explanations for the phenomenon. At the core of Big Brains and the Human Superorganism is data derived from original, previously unpublished research on brain size in a number of social mammals. This data supports the idea that evolution of the brain in humans is the result of social interaction. This book also traces the products of the social brain: ideology, religion, urban life, housing, and learning and adapting to dense complex social interactions. It uniquely compares brain evolution in social animals across the animal kingdom, and examines the nature of the human brain and its evolution within the social and historical context of complex human social structures.
Part I: Brains and Performance
Chapter 1: Cranimania and Human Behavior
Chapter 2: Brains: What are They Good For?
Chapter 3: Group Size, Territory and Disease
Chapter 4: Performing as Human or as a Social Being
Chapter 5: Smooth Brains, Convolutions, Complexity and Ability
Chapter 6: Brain Sizes, Bigness and Neurons
Chapter 7: A Brain of Two Parts: Cortex vs. Cerebellum
Chapter 8: The Future of the Human Brain
Part II: History of a Genus and the Evolution of Society
Chapter 9: Anthropocentric or Indifferent Universe?
Chapter 10: Racism As a Human Disease
Chapter 11: Learning and "Hard Wiring"
Chapter 12: The Housing Crisis and Homelessness
Chapter 13: On the Curious Illusion of Human Uniqueness
About the Author
Niccolo Leo Caldararo is lecturer of anthropology at San Francisco State University.
"[...] this book is the must read to learn about the human brain, for all those who claim that technology will replace the human brain very soon."
– Comparative Civilizations Review
"Caldararo (anthropology, San Francisco State Univ.) seeks to answer a question: why are human brains so big? The first section examines the anatomy of the human brain and considers the pressures on brain size evolution (for social interactions, predator evasion, etc.) and the increased complexity of communication demands. What does big mean, when considering body size, tissue organization, neuron structure, and dendritic connections? Human brains got bigger only after the development of stone tools, about 2.6 million years ago. The book discusses brain structures and size in other social organisms, including social insects, dolphins, prairie dogs, and explores the parallels with hunting skills of cephalopods and spiders. This comparative approach is informative. The last five chapters examine the social brain's implications in the growth of human society, incorporating varied topics such as racism, homelessness, handwriting, and population growth. The text is extremely well referenced, with over 80 pages of references, and a thorough index easily directs readers to specific areas of interest. Overall, this volume offers an in-depth discussion of human brain evolution in social and historical contexts and is recommended for students and researchers with an interest in society, human evolution, and neurobiology. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."
"A far-reaching, insightful book that addresses perhaps the greatest and most exciting unresolved issue in science: how and why the large, elaborated human brain evolved."
– Bernard J. Crespi, Simon Fraser University