Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human brains unlikely to evolve into a 'supermind' as price to pay would be too high

Date:
December 7, 2011
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
Human minds have hit an evolutionary “sweet spot” and - unlike computers - cannot continually get smarter without trade-offs elsewhere, according to research by the University of Warwick.

Human minds have hit an evolutionary "sweet spot" and -- unlike computers -- cannot continually get smarter without trade-offs elsewhere, according to research by the University of Warwick.

Related Articles


Researchers asked the question why we are not more intelligent than we are given the adaptive evolutionary process. Their conclusions show that you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to mental performance.

The evidence suggests that for every gain in cognitive functions, for example better memory, increased attention or improved intelligence, there is a price to pay elsewhere -- meaning a highly-evolved "supermind" is the stuff of science fiction.

University of Warwick psychology researcher Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig of the University of Basel looked at a range of studies, including research into the use of drugs like Ritalan which help with attention, studies of people with autism as well as a study of the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

For instance, among individuals with enhanced cognitive abilities- such as savants, people with photographic memories, and even genetically segregated populations of individuals with above average IQ, these individuals often suffer from related disorders, such as autism, debilitating synaesthesia and neural disorders linked with enhanced brain growth.

Similarly, drugs like Ritalan only help people with lower attention spans whereas people who don't have trouble focusing can actually perform worse when they take attention-enhancing drugs.

Dr Hills said: "These kinds of studies suggest there is an upper limit to how much people can or should improve their mental functions like attention, memory or intelligence.

"Take a complex task like driving, where the mind needs to be dynamically focused, attending to the right things such as the road ahead and other road users -- which are changing all the time.

"If you enhance your ability to focus too much, and end up over-focusing on specific details, like the driver trying to hide in your blind spot, then you may fail to see another driver suddenly veering into your lane from the other direction.

"Or if you drink coffee to make yourself more alert, the trade-off is that it is likely to increase your anxiety levels and lose your fine motor control. There are always trade-offs.

"In other words, there is a 'sweet spot' in terms of enhancing our mental abilities -- if you go beyond that spot -- just like in the fairy-tales -- you have to pay the price."

The research, entitled Why Aren't We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements, is published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Hills, R. Hertwig. Why Aren't We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2011; 20 (6): 373 DOI: 10.1177/0963721411418300

Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "Human brains unlikely to evolve into a 'supermind' as price to pay would be too high." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207104821.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2011, December 7). Human brains unlikely to evolve into a 'supermind' as price to pay would be too high. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207104821.htm
University of Warwick. "Human brains unlikely to evolve into a 'supermind' as price to pay would be too high." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207104821.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Why Aren't We Smarter Already? Evolutionary Limits on Cognition

Dec. 7, 2011 We put a lot of energy into improving our memory, intelligence, and attention. There are even drugs that make us sharper, such as Ritalin and caffeine. But maybe smarter isn't really all that ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins