The Evolution of Domain-General Mechanisms in Intelligence and Learning

Department of Psychology, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, California, United States
The Journal of General Psychology (Impact Factor: 1.04). 02/2005; 132(1):5-40. DOI: 10.3200/GENP.132.1.5-40
Source: PubMed


For both humans and animals, domain-general mechanisms are fallible but powerful tools for attaining evolutionary goals (e.g., resources) in uncertain, novel environments that were not recurrent features of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness. Domain-general mechanisms interact in complex ways with domain-specific, information-encapsulated modules, most importantly by manipulating information obtained from various modules in attempting to solve novel problems. Mechanisms of general intelligence, particularly the executive functions of working memory, underlie analogical reasoning as well as the decontextualization processes that are central to human thought. Although there is a variety of evolved, special purpose learning devices, learning is also characterized by domain-general mechanisms that are able to achieve evolutionary goals by making novel and serendipitous associations with environmental cues.

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Available from: Dan Chiappe
    • "The high intelligence of the human species is a precondition for their technological inventiveness , symbolic thinking, and language, and the products of those powers have in turn acted as selective forces shaping human evolution (Deacon , 1997; Geary, 2005; Mithen, 1996; Sterelny, 2003; E. Wilson, 2012). By combining ultrasociality and high intelligence, humans are able to (a) retain and develop social, mechanical , and intellectual innovations, adding new innovations to old (R. Boyd & Richerson, 2007; Sterelny, 2003; Tomasello et al., 2005); (b) extrapolate general ideas (Baumeister, Masicampo , & Vohs, 2011; Chiappe & MacDonald, 2005; Geary, 2005; Hawkins, 2004); and (c) produce art (Brown, 1991; Dissanayake, 2000; Dutton, 2009). By adding new innovations to old, humans have produced technology, civilizations , progressive sciences, and aesthetic traditions . "
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    • "This perspective suggests a framework for the continued development of still-rare ecological studies of criminal decision-making (Snook et al., 2011). It might be worthwhile in that context to explore how domain-specific processes relate (or not) to domain-general processes (Chiappe and MacDonald, 2005), as well as to niche construction (Laland and Brown, 2006). "
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