Human Intelligence May Have Evolved To Care For Helpless Infants

First Posted: May 25, 2016 06:51 AM EDT

Human intelligence may have developed in response to the demand of caring for babies, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Rochester conducted a study based on a new evolutionary model created by them that suggests demands of raising offspring results in high levels of intelligence.

According to the study, human babies are born early in their development process when the heads are still small to facilitate safe delivery because later on the size of the head becomes bigger to accommodate bigger brains, as compared to other species. The "dynamics can result in runaway pressure for extremely intelligent parents and extremely premature offspring", according to the experts.  The early, or premature, birth indicates that human infants are helpless and unable to care for themselves for a longer time as compared to other primates. Therefore, in the course of evolution, vulnerable human babies needed parents that were intelligent, leading to the development of cognitive abilities that were qualitatively different from other animals.

The researchers, comprising of Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kidd, found that weaning time which indicates the prematurity phase in infants was a better predictor of primate intelligence than any other measures, including brain size that is commonly linked with intelligence. According to the duo, the theory may also be able to explain the evolution of cognitive abilities, a marker for human intelligence. Furthermore, the duo pointed out that though there are other theories that explain human intelligence, most of them are based on conditions like hunting in groups or inhabiting harsh environments.

Piantadosi and Kidd, however, tried to find out that why those reasons are applicable specifically to intelligence developing in primates or mammals, instead of other species exposed to similar conditions. On the basis of an in depth study, it was found out that a major factor was live birth. "Our theory explains specifically why primates developed super intelligence but dinosaurs-who faced many of the same environmental pressures and had more time to do so-did not. Dinosaurs matured in eggs, so there was no linking between intelligence and infant immaturity at birth," said Celeste Kidd.

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