So what does this mean for our logical and analytical thoughts? Are each of us simply a part of a large “hive-mind,” constrained as well as protected by our social networks, but fooling ourselves into thinking that our individuality is important? The answer is almost certainly no. Our advances in science, technology and engineering draw upon the analytical and abstract thinking of us as individuals. However, what Dunbar and his colleagues have drawn our attention to is that almost all of our advances rely on a stable social community that enables and enhances such technical developments, but often through the specialist talents of individuals. This body of work has highlighted the extent to which our social development has contributed to Homo sapiens as a species, and ultimately to the developmental history of each of us as individuals.
Are you a scientist who specializes in neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology? And have you read a recent peer-reviewed paper that you would like to write about? Please send suggestions to Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the Boston Globe. He can be reached at garethideas AT gmail.com or Twitter @garethideas.