Letter to the editor
The ASCAP Bulletin Vol.2, No.2 April 2001

Social Brain and Sociophysiology

Sir,
....a proposal: You give me the definition of "the social brain" and I give you the evolutionary / neurobiological explanation!

Actually I gave it already densely packed under the title "Taking Evolutionary Psychology seriously" in: ASCAP Newsletter vol. 9, No.12, dec. 1996, "Addressed To and From". Maybe it was too early, and now the current trend has caught up with these topics.

A problem we both have is that understanding the ideas of others is normally impaired by lack of discrimination concerning their use of concepts of the phenomena in question, e.g., the inability of divorced people to distinguish between being a parent and being a partner.

In our case it is the other way round. For centuries we are used to split phenomena by concepts without regard to their joint origination: Since Darwin sexual and natural selection work in different domains. While sexual selection works intraspecifically ("social"), natural selection is seldom seen as also working between animals. But there is much "natural" selection going on intraspecifically, namely between prey and predator (both ways) and between all kinds of intraspecific competitors for resources. Cannot we call it also - in its pure sense - "social"? The social brain extended — do you agree?

lf the truly phylogenetic approach shows that the first and most important interactions took place between subjects (as shown in 1996), interactive behavior is basically i.e. originally, symmetrical. The fundamental distinction between subject and object can then be taken as secondary.

Maybe the split between "spatial" and "social" skills needs also not to be maintained in cases where cognition is working in complex situations. An example: grooming is interactive behavior between the groomer, the groomed and the parasite: three social brains interact!

Please let me know your opinion about these issues!

A part of my German article deals with the emergence of storylines;
here is a rough translation:

What is a story?

Every story has a beginning, a sort of action and an end. Let us start with
short stories: A becomes B or A goes from B to C. In biology, more precisely
in ethology, we call this type of short stories an episode or an actugenetic
event.

A single eyeblink, the reaching for a food item or the journey some birds do every year across thousands of miles are examples. Because of the closure of the NS only seldom you can say when an action starts or ends. Fuzzy temporal and anatomical borders are common but identity of the performer is usually preserved; the eye, the hand or the bird.

Good stories often offer more than one episode, more complexity is
easily obtained by meshing one story within another story. The best story-box is (the memory of) a human story-teller who everyone of us is.

Let's look into our lifetime as a unique story with at least two parts so far, from birth to reading these lines and from here to where you go or what ever you do. But now please take serious the proposition that every movement of our body is part of our personal story-line which is the very line our body draws through space and time.

After birth we are carried around above ground level, later we crawl on it slowly on all four limbs, then the very first steps - the line of that event is usually remembered in all details: starting point Mama - three, four or six delicately balanced steps - endpoint aunt Mary or - less often - Papa.
We can imagine the daily routes of walking, driving, shopping, visiting any place inside the flat or anywhere in our home-town - and every evening we arrive at the same point of return or rest: our bed (except bachelors).

We move to another town, we fly into holiday or climb mountains - in principle all movements we perform during our life time can be seen as one line - drawn continuously by our center of gravity (which can virtually represent the whole body in one point placed somewhere near the stomach).

For our cognitive life we must take the labyrinth of the inner ear as the very instrument to draw the life-line: It perceives every acceleration in all directions, rotations in particular, and it can judge distances of being carried (or even
being driven) quite precisely. The labyrinth is the first sense to be alert in our lives (12th week of gestation) and probably is also our last one working.

In short: The ceaseless chain of single behavioral episodes stored in biographical memory makes a life-line. Actugenetic situations are the micro-elements of ontogeny - and locomotion is the performing part.

The story of all stories, as you know, is evolution and we are concerned here with the phylogeny of vertebrates including ourselves.

Is it a story of success? - yes.

Is it also a story of "ascending" development?

A story of reaching higher levels: yes. Fish started below sea-level, amphibians mounted the shores, mammals lifted their bodies from ground and primates climbed the trees. Then there was a "down" with hominids returning to the ground-level, but by lifting their forelegs together with the front half of the body they started the most impressive (and still unexplained) story of all, hominisation, becoming human. Cooperation enabled them to reach the highest level so far, the orbit of the moon..

Again we can say that evolution is the succession of innumerable ontogenies, from the first paleozoic fish to everyone of us.

In this way evolution is a locomotor story.

 
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