How Teamwork Made Us Smarter

Posted by Lindsay Starke on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 1:07PM

Though many of us might assume that our big brains came about in a cutthroat struggle for survival, new research implies that cooperation may actually have been the driver behind the development of human intelligence. Researchers used computer models of organisms with simple artificial brains, and had them play games simulating human social interactions. Individuals that were successful at the games were allowed to reproduce within the model and spread their genes. The researchers found that it was cooperation that led to the selection of the biggest brains.

"The strongest selection for larger, more intelligent brains, occurred when the social groups were first beginning to start cooperating, which then kicked off an evolutionary Machiavellian arms race of one individual trying to outsmart the other by investing in a larger brain. Our digital organisms typically start to evolve more complex 'brains' when their societies first begin to develop cooperation." explained Dr Andrew Jackson.

Teamwork requires complex coordination and communication between individuals, so it makes sense that it would lead to selection for bigger brains. Could humanity's impressive intelligence be rooted in our desire to cooperate with one another for the good of the group? These findings offer evidence that it might indeed have been teamwork that made us human.

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