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Academic & Professional Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution

The Evolution of Human Cleverness

By: Richard Hallam(Author)
268 pages
Publisher: Routledge
The Evolution of Human Cleverness
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  • The Evolution of Human Cleverness ISBN: 9780367761035 Paperback May 2022 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1 week
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Selected version: £35.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

The Evolution of Human Cleverness presents a unique introduction to the way human cognitive abilities have evolved. The book comprises a series of mini-essays on distinct topics in which technical terms are simplified, considering how humans made the long journey from our ape-like ancestors to become capable of higher-level reasoning and problem-solving.

All the topics are cross-linked, allowing the reader to dip in and out, but certain key concepts run through the underlying reasoning. Chiefly, these are adaptation and selection, the distinction between ultimate and proximate causes of behaviour, gene–culture co-evolution, and domain-general versus domain-specific cognitive processes. The book should help the reader draw lessons for the human species as a whole, especially in view of the environmental threats to its own existence.

Entries have been carefully crafted to cut through scientific jargon, providing bite-sized and digestible chunks of knowledge, making the topic accessible for students and lay readers alike. The author draws on research from diverse fields including Psychology, Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, and Neuroscience to provide an unbiased account of the field, making it an ideal text for students of all levels.


1 Aims
2 Overview

Essential themes
3 Proximate and ultimate causes
4 Adaptation and selection
5 Nature, nurture, and culture
6 Human uniqueness
7 Reasoning about the past
8 Is cleverness genetic?
9 Psychologies: Theories and methods

Hominin ancestors
10 Hominin and primate relatives
11 Ancestral hominins
12 Bipedalism
13 Early Homo
14 Late Homo
15 Homo floresiensis
16 Who or what is Homo sapiens?
17 How clever were Neanderthals?
18 Behavioural modernity
19 Hominin life history
20 Family structure, pair bonding, and communal breeding

Selection and transmission of traits
21 Genetic inheritance
22 Sexual selection
23 Group selection
24 Exaptation
25 Non-selectionist processes
26 Gene/culture co-evolution
27 Genes and hominin evolution.
28 The heritability of intelligence and cleverness

Contentious theoretical issues
29 Personal and sub-personal explanations
30 Intentionality
31 Mentalism in evolutionary explanation
32 Cognitive science vs behavioural theory
33 Representation
34 Modularity
35 Two systems for controlling behaviour?
36 Recursion
37 The meaning of signs

Comparing ourselves with other primates
38 Differences between ape and human communication
39 Primate gestures and the evolution of language
40 Perspective-taking in non-human primates
41 Social learning in non-human primates
42 Understanding the physical world
43 Pro-social behaviour and cooperation in non-human primates
44 Signing chimpanzees
45 Home-reared chimpanzees
46 Primate intelligence

How did hominins evolve socially?
47 Self-awareness and identity
48 Social learning: Imitation
49 The social brain hypothesis
50 Cooperation
51 Social reciprocity
52 Perspective-taking in hominins
53 Displaced reference and pretend play
54 Self-domestication

The brain
55 Brain size and early development
56 Brain evolution: Structure and function
57 Handedness
58 Mirror neuron system

Learning from archaeology
59 Models in cognitive archaeology
60 What can stone-tools tell us?
61 Fire

62 The evolution of symbols
63 Protolanguage
64 Origins of language: fossil and DNA evidence
65 Origins of language: As communication
66 Origins of language: As faculty.

Becoming complex and clever
67 Evolution of consciousness
68 The social self
69 Memory: Living in time
70 Working memory
71 Meta-cognition
72 Abstraction and analogy
73 Imagination and counterfactual thought
74 Agency: Getting it all together
75 The evolution of reasoning
76 Intelligence vs. applied intelligence
77 Framing behaviour functionally

Putting it all together
78 The evolution of cleverness: Rival accounts.
79 Responding to evolution science
80 Infelicities and stupidity
81 Acting on evolution science


Customer Reviews


Richard Hallam worked as a clinical psychologist, researcher, and lecturer until 2006, mainly in the National Health Service and at University College London and the University of East London. Since then, he has worked independently as a writer, researcher, and therapist.

By: Richard Hallam(Author)
268 pages
Publisher: Routledge
Media reviews

"Prof. Hallam has written a unique and most interesting book on evolution. What is unique about this book is the psychological perspective applied to help us understand modern human evolution. In addition to traditional genetic and anatomical topics Hallam helps us understand how human evolution has been shaped by social and psychological processes from early hominins to the present. His introduction to the human characteristic of cleverness and its development in the context of multiple evolutionary processes is both unique and brilliant. The text consists of 81 relatively brief and interesting sections on topics that can be read in nearly any order to form a meaningful Gestalt or mosaic without over-taxing the reader’s ability to attend, comprehend, or focus. The book is most informative and is a pleasure to read without requiring any special knowledge or background."
– Glenn Shean, PhD, Professor of Psychology Emeritus, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, USA

"The book is a panoramic and comprehensive survey of contemporary knowledge and debate on the subject of the evolution of human cleverness. Its content is structured in encyclopaedic fashion, with entries covering the topic from multiple perspectives. The style is lucid and concise, guiding the reader in masterly fashion through a complex maze of theory, fact, and speculation. The book offers the reader a rich, worthwhile, and illuminating voyage."
– Ariel Stravynski, Professeur Honoraire, Département de Psychologie, Université de Montréal, Canada

"Ever wonder what makes humans so clever? Read this book and you’ll find out. It tells the evolutionary story of how our abilities emerge, what they enable us to do and how our cleverness is now impacting the whole planet. The question is: Can we use our cleverness to solve the problems we have created for ourselves in time to preserve our fragile world? Richard Hallam's book details the tools we have at our disposal, we just need to use them. A marvellous book, highly recommended."
– Freddy Jackson Brown, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, North Bristol NHS Trust Associate Fellow, Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal, and Research, University of Warwick

"As in his other books, Hallam’s talent is in making clear how things are complex. This is not to say that we are missing the juice of the matter, or that the picture is confused: On the contrary, in this book one can find clearly set out strong proposals concerning all we can reasonably know about human cleverness but, fortunately, one can also find all we don’t know about it, and all we can’t probably know."
– Adriano Bugliani, PhD, Assistant Professor, History of Philosophy, University of Firenze, Italy

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