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Why Do We Have Large Brains? Cognitive Psychology

cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, social psychology
Why Is This Brain So Big?

Today's episode is on Why Do We Have Large Brain as an intrduction to social cognition and this is a subtopic of cognitive psychology.

Today's show notes are taken from Cognitive Psychology 2nd Edition:

Humanity’s ability to think, interact, form communities and do other things as a group is rather remarkable compared to other animals. As it is this ability of humanity’s that has allowed it to accomplish so much.

But how are we able to do this group work and working together?

Well, this is where our next topic comes in as social cognition looks at the mental processes behind our social interactions and group processes.

Although, it must be stated upfront that primates have unusually large brains for our body size, and this comes with the price of very high energy costs.

Meaning that to compensate for this high energy costs, there must be a good explanation for why we have this large organ that costs us so much energy.


Our social cognition can be explained by evolutionary theory because our large brains aided our survival as they allowed us to develop social skills. That allowed us to form groups and communities that was beneficial for the survival of the species. As this allowed us to hunt in packs, share the workload and aid in the survival of the species in other ways,

Ecological hypothesis:

This hypothesis looks at the reason for our big brains from an environmental standpoint and the hypothesis proposes that our big brains are a bi-product of cognitive demands of certain behaviours. Like: foraging mental maps of the landscape (for example), innovation and tool use.

As a result, these instrumental skills gave us a direct advantage over living as individuals for survival.

Therefore, we developed better foraging skills amongst other skills as we could forage in groups and learn from others.

Social learning:

Personally, I have always loved social learning theory as it’s always useful and interesting to consider.

Therefore, applying social learning theory to Social Cognition, our large brains reflect the social skills that developed through social competition, and in order to achieve success socially, we needed to develop skills. Such as deception, forming alliances and manipulation.

Meaning that social skills gave a direct advantage to the individual to survive.

Thus, having and being able to use social skills is beneficial to the individual and not only the species.

I hope you've enjoyed today cognitive psychology episode of The Psychology World Podcast and if you want to learn more about Cognitive Psychology then please check out my book Cognitive Psychology 2nd Edition.

Have a great day,


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