Think­ing Big

Find out how our so­cial lives shaped our brains

How It Works - - BOOK REVIEWS -

Au­thor: Clive Gam­ble, John Gowlett, Robin Dun­bar Pub­lisher: Thames & Hud­son

Price: £9.99 / $16.95

Re­lease date: Out now (UK) / 6 Fe­bru­ary 2018 (US)

Au­thored by evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gist (Dun­bar) and two ar­chae­ol­o­gists (Gam­ble and Gowlett), this book is the re­sult of a su­perb com­bi­na­tion of ex­per­tise en­abling the reader to un­der­stand the the­o­ries be­hind our evo­lu­tion and the hard ev­i­dence that sup­ports them.

This ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­plores the his­tory of our brain, and the growth of this big-think­ing, so­cial com­puter. And, al­though the hu­man and chimp lin­eages di­verged ap­prox­i­mately 7 mil­lion years ago, we still ap­pear to carry in­stinc­tively so­cial habits within our an­cient minds. In just tens of thou­sands of years, we have gone from us­ing stone tools to iphones, but our so­cial lives at the ba­sic level have hardly changed. We are now global cit­i­zens, with many of us liv­ing in megac­i­ties, yet we still possess an­cient minds only ca­pa­ble of main­tain­ing con­tact with a

limited nat­u­ral so­cial group of around 150 (so-called Dun­bar’s num­ber) in­di­vid­u­als.

The au­thors bril­liantly il­lus­trate the dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween mod­ern hu­mans, our ancestors and our pri­mate rel­a­tives, us­ing in­for­ma­tive graphs and cap­ti­vat­ing images to dis­play the geo­met­ric pat­terns etched into rocks, as well as in­clud­ing fos­sil records of our ori­gins and draw­ings of our old­est for­bear­ers.

This book is a fan­tas­tic read for any­one in­ter­ested in evo­lu­tion­ary bi­ol­ogy and archaeology, par­tic­u­larly if you’ve al­ways won­dered about your own in­stincts. Why does an au­di­ence laugh in rip­ples rather than all to­gether, and why do we line up the glasses on the ta­ble with lines on the checkered ta­ble cloth? A host of ques­tions are an­swered within these pages.

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