Tracking the evolution of causal cognition in humans

Marlize Lombard, Peter Gärdenfors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


We suggest a seven-grade model for the evolution of causal cognition as a framework that can be used to gauge variation in the complexity of causal reasoning from the panin-hominin split until the appearance of cognitively modern hunter-gatherer communities. The intention is to put forward a cohesive model for the evolution of causal cognition in humans, which can be assessed against increasingly finegrained empirical data from the palaeoanthropological and archaeological records. We propose that the tracking behaviour (i.e., the ability to interpret and follow external, inanimate, visual clues of hominins) provides a rich case study for tracing the evolution of causal cognition in our lineage. The grades of causal cognition are tentatively linked to aspects of the Stone Age/Palaeolithic archaeological record. Our model can also be applied to current work in evolutionary psychology and research on causal cognition, so that an inter-disciplinary understanding and correlation of processes becomes increasingly possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-234
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Anthropological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Causal cognition
  • Causal grammar
  • Cognitive evolution
  • Mindreading
  • Panin-hominin split
  • Tracking behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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