Over the last few decades, comparative cognitive research has focused on the pinnacles of mental evolution, asking all-or-nothing questions such as which animals (if any) possess a theory of mind, culture, linguistic abilities, future planning, and so on. Research programs adopting this top-down perspective have often pitted one taxon against another, resulting in sharp dividing lines. Insight into the underlying mechanisms has lagged behind. A dramatic change in focus now seems to be under way, however, with increased appreciation that the basic building blocks of cognition might be shared across a wide range of species. We argue that this bottom-up perspective, which focuses on the constituent capacities underlying larger cognitive phenomena, is more in line with both neuroscience and evolutionary biology.
Time for a Bottom-Up Perspective on Animal and Human Cognition / F.B. De Waal; P.F. Ferrari. - In: TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES. - ISSN 1364-6613. - 14(2010), pp. 201-207. [10.1016/j.tics.2010.03.003]