Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2014) “A Natural History of Human Thinking” (Part 7 of 22)

0226 Tomasello does not combine his insights with that of British evolutionary anthropologists writing on the same topic in 2014.  The e-book, Comments on Clive Gamble, John Gowlett and Robin Dunbar’s Book (2014) Thinking Big (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other venues), highlights the theme of social circles.

0227 Dunbar claims that, for mammals, relative brain size correlates to group size.

The relative cranial capacity of bipedal australopithecines corresponds to the size of a band (around 50).  This is the size of a collective that is large enough to be safe (from predators) when sleeping together at night.

The relative cranial capacity of humans corresponds to a community (around 150), indicating that hominin brains have grown larger over the past three million years.

Or, is it group size?

0228 What do the bracketing numbers for a band (50) and a community (150) imply?

The number increases by a factor of three, leading to the question of whether these numbers indicate waystations for optimal sizes with respect to social arrangements.  Does the pattern extend to larger and small social circles?

0229 Consider the following table.

0230 So, what am I suggesting?

Tomasello’s insight that early hominins (bipedal southern apes) are forced into more cooperative lifeways elevates the importance of one social circle, more than any other.  If an individual working alone is unlikely to forage enough food, then individuals working in teams might acquire enough food for themselves, as well as for members outside of the team.  If one team can gather enough food to feed themselves three times over, the team can feed the band. 

At first, teamwork is optional.  Over generations, teamwork becomes necessary.

0231 Yes, nature, being a fickle master, offers opportunities for such harvests only on occasion and in certain locations.  On any given day, the team that is the most prepared for the day’s opportunities will be more productive than other teams.  The team that is the most prepared will tend to be the one that is most experienced in a particular style of harvesting.  For example, if mushrooms are suddenly plentiful, the mushroom team will know which ones are safe and which ones are poisonous.  The same goes for tubers, and plants, and fruits, and so on.  For animals, each team will know hunting tricks for the prey that it specializes in.

0232 Each team shares the same intentions in regards to a particular endeavor.

We work for food.

0233 And, that is not all.

Each team gets better and better as generations pass, because the tricks for each team end up as adaptations, increasing the range of cognitive traits for the southern apes.  Each team ends up creating its own neural workspace, so to speak.  As collaborative teams succeed and diversify, hominin cranial capacity increases incrementally.