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Marc D. Hauser

Marc D. Hauser is Professor of Psychology and Codirector of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Program at Harvard University.

Titles by This Author

Bound to become a classic and to stimulate debate and research, The Evolution of Communication looks at species in their natural environments as a way to begin to understand what the real units of analysis of communicating systems are, using arguments about design and function to illuminate both the origin and subsequent evolution of each system. It lights the way for a research program that seriously addresses the problem of how communication systems, including language, have been designed over the course of evolution.

Titles by This Editor

A Fyssen Foundation Symposium

The extraordinary overlap between human and chimpanzee genomes does not result in an equal overlap between human and chimpanzee thoughts, sensations, perceptions, and emotions; there are considerable similarities but also considerable differences between human and nonhuman primate brains. From Monkey Brain to Human Brain uses the latest findings in cognitive psychology, comparative biology, and neuroscience to look at the complex patterns of convergence and divergence in primate cortical organization and function.

Several chapters examine the use of modern technologies to study primate brains, analyzing the potentials and the limitations of neuroimaging as well as genetic and computational approaches. These methods, which can be applied identically across different species of primates, help to highlight the paradox of nonlinear primate evolution—the fact that major changes in brain size and functional complexity resulted from small changes in the genome. Other chapters identify plausible analogs or homologs in nonhuman primates for such human cognitive functions as arithmetic, reading, theory of mind, and altruism; examine the role of parietofrontal circuits in the production and comprehension of actions; analyze the contributions of the prefrontal and cingulate cortices to cognitive control; and explore to what extent visual recognition and visual attention are related in humans and other primates.

The Fyssen Foundation is dedicated to encouraging scientific inquiry into the cognitive mechanisms that underlie animal and human behavior and has long sponsored symposia on topics of central importance to the cognitive sciences.

When animals, including humans, communicate, they convey information and express their perceptions of the world. Because different organisms are able to produce and perceive different signals, the animal world contains a diversity of communication systems. Based on the approach laid out in the 1950s by Nobel laureate Nikolaas Tinbergen, this book looks at animal communication from the four perspectives of mechanisms, ontogeny, function, and phylogeny.

The book's great strength is its broad comparative perspective, which enables the reader to appreciate the diversity of solutions to particular problems of signal design and perception. For example, although the neural circuitry underlying the production of acoustic signals is different in frogs, songbirds, bats, and humans, each involves a set of dedicated pathways designed to solve particular problems of communicative efficiency. Such comparative findings form the basis of a conceptual framework for understanding the mechanisms underlying communication systems and their evolution.