Aggressive Mimicry as a Human Hunting Strategy
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The expansion of human cognition is a major question in the science of human origins. Several hypotheses have been proposed for its evolution, primarily the Foraging Brain and the Social Brain Hypotheses. Thus far, the Social Brain Hypothesis has much support based on its explanation for the evolution of Theory of Mind (ToM) in which social group size led to the development of `adept mind-reading and human deception in the human species. Alternatively, the Foraging Brain Hypothesis explains cognition through the lens of environmental pressure. Viewed as emphasizing separate sides of the same problem, I propose a potential pathway for the evolution of human deception independent of sociality that can be explained through ecological drivers: that of deception as a human hunting practice. Utilizing cross-cultural data gathered from the Human Relations Area File, I identified numerous (n=356) cross-cultural cases of the application of a hunting strategy in non-social hunting contexts across 143 cultures. By comparing similar behaviors in non-human animals which utilize a hunting strategy known as aggressive mimicry, I suggest a potential pathway through which the evolution of deception and mind-reading may have taken place. Namely, whereby shifts in the ancestral environment and a change in the human dietary niche to rely on broad, hard-to-obtain foods led to a reliance on novel ways of capturing prey, including deception. Rather than theory of mind developing from sociality, I suggest social applications of mind-reading in humans could have theoretically followed the development of these applications for foraging contexts. This framework is also discussed in relation to paleoanthropological findings and human language evolution.
Moser, Cody J (2019). Aggressive Mimicry as a Human Hunting Strategy. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from