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Experts in action: why we need an embodied social brain hypothesis

Barrett, Louise and Henzi, S. Peter and Barton, Robert A. (2022) 'Experts in action: why we need an embodied social brain hypothesis.', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 377 (1844).


The anthropoid primates are known for their intense sociality and large brain size. The idea that these might be causally related has given rise to a large body of work testing the ‘social brain hypothesis'. Here, the emphasis has been placed on the political demands of social life, and the cognitive skills that would enable animals to track the machinations of other minds in metarepresentational ways. It seems to us that this position risks losing touch with the fact that brains primarily evolved to enable the control of action, which in turn leads us to downplay or neglect the importance of the physical body in a material world full of bodies and other objects. As an alternative, we offer a view of primate brain and social evolution that is grounded in the body and action, rather than minds and metarepresentation.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
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Date accepted:11 November 2021
Date deposited:14 January 2022
Date of first online publication:27 December 2021
Date first made open access:14 January 2022

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