Skip to main content


Humans possess certain unique mental traits. Self-reflection, as well as ethic and aesthetic values, is among them, constituting an essential part of what we call the human condition. The human mental machinery led our species to have a self-awareness but, at the same time, a sense of justice, willing to punish unfair actions even if the consequences of such outrages harm our own interests. Also, we appreciate searching for novelties, listening to music, viewing beautiful pictures, or living in well-designed houses. But why is this so? What is the meaning of our tendency, among other particularities, to defend and share values, to evaluate the rectitude of our actions and the beauty of our surroundings? What brain mechanisms correlate with the human capacity to maintain inner speech, or to carry out judgments of value? To what extent are they different from other primates' equivalent behaviors?

In the Light of Evolution Volume VII aims to survey what has been learned about the human "mental machinery." This book is a collection of colloquium papers from the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium "The Human Mental Machinery," which was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences on January 11-12, 2013. The colloquium brought together leading scientists who have worked on brain and mental traits. Their 16 contributions focus the objective of better understanding human brain processes, their evolution, and their eventual shared mechanisms with other animals. The articles are grouped into three primary sections: current study of the mind-brain relationships; the primate evolutionary continuity; and the human difference: from ethics to aesthetics. This book offers fresh perspectives coming from interdisciplinary approaches that open new research fields and constitute the state of the art in some important aspects of the mind-brain relationships.

Suggested Citation

National Academy of Sciences. 2014. In the Light of Evolution: Volume VII: The Human Mental Machinery. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Import this citation to:

Publication Info

394 pages |  6 x 9 | 

  • Hardcover:  978-0-309-29640-3
  • Ebook:  978-0-309-29643-4
Chapters skim
Front Matter i-xvi
1 Theory of Mind and Darwin's Legacy--John Searle 3-18
2 Affiliation, Empathy, and the Origins of Theory of Mind--Robert M. Seyfarth and Dorothy L. Cheney 19-36
3 Evolution of Consciousness: Phylogeny, Ontogeny, and Emergence from General Anesthesia--George A. Mashour and Michael T. Alkire 37-56
4 Similarity in Form and Function of the Hippocampus in Rodents, Monkeys, and Humans--Robert E. Clark and Larry R. Squire 59-74
5 Evolution of Working Memory--Peter Carruthers 75-94
6 The Evolution of Episodic Memory--Timothy A. Allen and Norbert J. Fortin 95-114
7 Neuroethology of Primate Social Behavior--Steve W. C. Chang, Lauren J. N. Brent, Geoffrey K. Adams, Jeffrey T. Klein, John M. Pearson, Karli K. Watson, and Michael L. Platt 115-134
8 Synaptogenesis and Development of Pyramidal Neuron Dendritic Morphology in the Chimpanzee Neocortex Resembles Humans--Serena Bianchi, Cheryl D. Stimpson, Tetyana Duka, Michael D. Larsen, William G. M. Janssen, Zachary Collins, Amy L. Bauernfeind, Steven J. Schapiro, Wallace B. Baze, Mark J. McArthur, William D. Hopkins, Derek E. Wildman, Leonard Lipovich, Christopher W. Kuzawa, Bob Jacobs, Patrick R. Hof, and Chet C. Sherwood 135-152
9 Making Lasting Memories: Remembering the Significant--James L. McGaugh 157-168
10 Concepts and Implications of Altruism Bias and Pathological Altruism--Barbara A. Oakley 169-190
11 Justice- and Fairness-Related Behaviors in Nonhuman Primates--Sarah F. Brosnan 191-210
12 Powering Up with Indirect Reciprocity in a Large-Scale Field Experiment--Erez Yoeli, Moshe Hoffman, David G. Rand, and Martin A. Nowak 211-224
13 From Perception to Pleasure: Music and Its Neural Substrates--Robert J. Zatorre and Valorie N. Salimpoor 225-242
14 Learning Where to Look for a Hidden Target--Leanne Chukoskie, Joseph Snider, Michael C. Mozer, Richard J. Krauzlis, and Terrence J. Sejnowski 243-262
15 Impact of Contour on Aesthetic Judgments and Approach-Avoidance Decisions in Architecture-Oshin Vartanian, Gorka Navarrete, Anjan Chatterjee, Lars Brorson Fich, Helmut Leder, Cristin Modroo, Marcos Nadal, Nicolai Rostrup, and Martin Skov 263-282
16 Dynamics of Brain Networks in the Aesthetic Appreciation--Camilo J. Cela-Conde, Juan Garca-Prieto, Jos J. Ramasco, Claudio R. Mirasso, Ricardo Bajo, Enric Munar, Albert Flexas, Francisco del-Pozo, and Fernando Maest 283-304
References 305-364
Index 365-378

What is skim?

The Chapter Skim search tool presents what we've algorithmically identified as the most significant single chunk of text within every page in the chapter. You may select key terms to highlight them within pages of each chapter.

Copyright Information

The National Academies Press (NAP) has partnered with Copyright Clearance Center's Marketplace service to offer you a variety of options for reusing NAP content. Through Marketplace, you may request permission to reprint NAP content in another publication, course pack, secure website, or other media. Marketplace allows you to instantly obtain permission, pay related fees, and print a license directly from the NAP website. The complete terms and conditions of your reuse license can be found in the license agreement that will be made available to you during the online order process. To request permission through Marketplace you are required to create an account by filling out a simple online form. The following list describes license reuses offered by the NAP through Marketplace:

  • Republish text, tables, figures, or images in print
  • Post on a secure Intranet/Extranet website
  • Use in a PowerPoint Presentation
  • Distribute via CD-ROM
  • Photocopy

Click here to obtain permission for the above reuses. If you have questions or comments concerning the Marketplace service, please contact:

Marketplace Support
International +1.978.646.2600
US Toll Free +1.855.239.3415

To request permission to distribute a PDF, please contact our Customer Service Department at

loading iconLoading stats for In the Light of Evolution: Volume VII: The Human Mental Machinery...