, Volume 122, Issue 1–2, pp 3–28 | Cite as

How the Social Environment Shaped the Evolution of Mind

  • Denise Dellarosa Cummins


Dominance hierarchies are ubiquitous in the societies of human and non-human animals. Evidence from comparative, developmental, and cognitive psychological investigations is presented that show how social dominance hierarchies shaped the evolution of the human mind, and hence, human social institutions. It is argued that the pressures that arise from living in hierarchical social groups laid a foundation of fundamental concepts and cognitive strategies that are crucial to surviving in social dominance hierarchies. These include recognizing and reasoning transitively about dominance relations, fast-track learning of social norms (permissions, prohibitions, and obligations), detecting violations of social norms (cheating), monitoring reciprocal obligations, and reading the intentions of others.


Social Group Social Norm Social Environment Social Institution Dominance Relation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denise Dellarosa Cummins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California-DavisDavis

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