Did early births lead to smarter humans?

| | June 7, 2016
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Due to the size of their head, human infants need to be born early, and relatively helpless, so that they can squeeze their big-brained noggins through the tight birth canal. According to cognitive scientist Celeste Kidd, this trade-off between neural tissue and early birth could pull humans into an ever-tighter spiral of intelligence, in turn making them more and more helpless as infants.

Kidd and her partner found that most species gravitated toward a combination of smaller brains and longer gestations. There were also a few species, though, that drifted toward a combination of big brain size and early births. These species were the ones that had started out smart and early-born, which allowed them to fall into a feedback loop that reinforced those traits.

As a way to ground-truth the model, Kidd and Piantadosi compared the relative intelligence of a wide variety of primate species to their gestation and weaning times. Sure enough, they found, the smarter the primate, the less the time its baby spent in the womb.

Read full, original post: Did Preemies Make Humans Smart?

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