Title: The Cognitive Ecology of Mexico: Climatic and Socio-Cultural Effects on Life History Strategy and General Cognitive Ability
Authors: Tomás Cabeza de Baca, Ph.D. * & Aurelio José Figueredo, Ph.D. †
* Corresponding Author: Division of Family Studies and Human Development, Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, United States of America 85721-0078 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
† Presenter: Director, Graduate Program in Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology, Department of Psychology, School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior, College of Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, United States of America 85721-0068 (email@example.com)
Researchers have repeatedly found associations at the population level between the aggregate reproductive life history strategies and general cognitive abilities of human societies, but no such association have been found at the individual level between the life history strategies and general cognitive abilities of individual persons. This phenomenon has been dubbed The Rushton Paradox.
Among intelligence researchers, there are two broad explanations for differences between human populations regarding general cognitive abilities, health, and quality of life. One explanation for group differences, referred to as Differential-K Theory, suggests that group differences emerged based on ancestral environmental conditions, denoting that climate may have played a key role in modifying survival and reproductive strategies, including cognitive abilities. In this view, populations that were forced by circumstances to endure colder, harsher climates needed the cognitive flexibility to adjust and plan for the uncontrollable upheavals of the “hostile forces of nature”, whereas populations in warmer climates did not require the more advanced cognitive tools that were presumably essential in the colder, harsher climates. Thus, different groups developed different survival and reproductive strategies, and these included varying levels of general intelligence. Alternatively, according to Social Privilege Theory, higher levels of developed human capital, derived from socioeconomic resources, improve the quality of life of individuals within a group, thus producing group noticeable disparities in intelligence when resource-rich groups are contrasted with resource-deprived groups.
The present study sought to reconcile both explanations by proposing and providing a preliminary test of the integrated model of Human Cognitive Ecology. This model suggests that there are many ecological and social levels working in a hierarchical cascade. Our integrated model of human cognitive ecology specifically investigated how both ecological and sociological factors impact biodiversity in state-level life history strategies and general cognitive abilities in Mexico. Population-level statistics were collected from an assortment of Mexican national agencies on thirty-one Mexican states and the Federal District (N=32). This integrated model of human cognitive ecology revealed that, at the state level: (1) slower life history strategy was significantly predicted by higher population density, as expected by evolutionary theory; (2) greater human capital was significantly predicted by slower life history strategy, dryer climate, and warmer climate; and (3) higher general cognitive ability was significantly predicted by greater human capital, dryer climate, and cooler climate.
We propose that this integrated model provides a possible solution to The Rushton Paradox, in that slower life history strategy promotes the development of greater human capital as an emergent property of increased social complexity at the group level rather than at the individual level. This effect is attributable to the more highly cooperative, coordinated, and uniquely mutualistic social dynamics naturally generated by societies of slower life history strategists, including higher levels of differentiation and specialization in cognitive abilities. In this view, the greater economic productivity of such societies is mediated by the effects of Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage., whereby cooperating networks of specialists are expected to economically outproduce corresponding aggregates of generalists. Implications and future directions for both human life history and general intelligence research are discussed.
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