Vol. 12 No. 2 (2019): Bodies and cultures. How we become ourselves

Evolution and Human Cognition

Ian Tattersall
American Museum of Natural History
Published November 13, 2019
  • Evolution; Human Cognition;,
  • Symbol;
How to Cite
Tattersall, I. (2019). Evolution and Human Cognition. Aisthesis. Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi dell’estetico, 12(2), 11-18. https://doi.org/10.13128/Aisthesis-10729


There can be no reasonable doubt that our living species Homo sapiens is fully integrated into the great Tree of Life that unites all living organisms on this planet. But it is also obvious that we are not just another run-of-the mill primate. But what distinguishes us most strongly from those relatives – and all other organisms – is something more abstract: the unusual and unprecedented way in which we process information in our minds. That is not so in our case, and a useful shorthand descriptor of the difference between us and them is that we think symbolically.  In other words, we mentally deconstruct our exterior and interior worlds into a vocabulary of discrete symbols and then rearrange them, according to rules, to describe those worlds not only as they are, but as they might be.  


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