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Cooperation Came First: Evolution and Human Cognition
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Contextual behavioral perspectives on learning and behavior reside under the umbrella of evolution science. In this paper we briefly review current developments in evolution science that bear on learning and behavior, concluding that behavior is now moving to the center of evolution studies. Learning is one of the main ladders of evolution by establishing functional benchmarks within which genetic adaptations can be advantaged. We apply that approach to the beginning feature of human cognition according to Relational Frame Theory: derived symmetry in coordination framing. When combined with the idea that cooperation came before major advances in human cognition or culture, existing abilities in social referencing, joint attention, perspective-taking skills, and relational learning ensure that the behavioral subcomponents of symmetrical equivalence relations would be reinforced. When coordination framing emerged and came under arbitrary contextual control as an operant class, a template was established for the development of multiple relational frames and the emergence and evolutionary impact of human cognition as we know it. Implications of these ideas for translational research are briefly discussed.