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date: 22 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter takes up the links between Dawkins’s concept of the extended phenotype and that of the extended mind. More specifically, it has three aims: (1) it argues that the extended mind effects are a special case of niche construction; (2) it identifies the cognitive foundations that made it possible for hominins to amplify their cognitive powers with material supports; in particular, the chapter suggests that our reliance on cognitive tools depends on a tripod of (a) human hyper-plasticity, (b) highly structured and enriched learning environments, and (c) family support for skill acquisition long into adolescence; and (3) it situates the extended mind and related phenomena in their evolutionary context, in the deep history of human evolution. Specifically, the material record suggests an increasing footprint of these phenomena in the later Pleistocene. Distributed cognition, the material scaffolding of skill acquisition, and improved learning strategies collectively produced accelerating change, beginning about 250,000 years ago.

Keywords: extended mind, extended phenotype, distributed cognition, human niche construction, the upper Paleolithic revolution, behaviorally modern humans

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