From PsychEvos Wiki


Intelligence can be understood as the capacity for complex problem-solving, learning from experience, understanding, and adapting to new situations. The study of the evolutionary basis of intelligence seeks to understand the mechanisms and selective pressures behind the development of intelligence in different species, with a particular focus on human intelligence. Evolutionary psychology provides valuable insights into the reasons underlying the emergence and persistence of intelligent traits in organisms. In this context, it is important to explore the ways that evolutionary processes have shaped general cognitive abilities.

Evolution of Intelligence

The concept of general intelligence arose as a possible outcome of the constraints that natural selection imposes on the cognitive abilities of species. From an evolutionary perspective, general intelligence may have emerged as a means for animals to adapt and respond to rapidly changing or novel environmental challenges that could not be addressed through more specific cognitive adaptations.

In humans, general intelligence correlates with various cognitive and mental abilities, as well as with the Big Five personality factor Openness to Experience. Moreover, there may be a strong relationship between intelligence and other desirable traits that confer adaptive advantages, such as creativity and successful problem-solving. This connection might be explained by the fact that individuals with higher general intelligence can cope more effectively with environmental changes and novel situations, which has significant evolutionary implications for survival and reproductive success[1].

Cognitive and Neural Underpinnings of Intelligence

The study of intelligence in animal species provides valuable information about the cognitive and neural mechanisms that contribute to the development of intelligence. Research has shown that certain species, such as chimpanzees, gorillas, and elephants, possess cognitive skills that allow them to excel in tasks designed to assess various aspects of intelligence. These tasks typically involve problem-solving and learning from experience, which can shed light on the cognitive processes associated with intelligence in these species[2].

Furthermore, investigating the brain structures and neural processes underlying intelligence in different species can help identify the neurological features that contribute to the development of higher cognitive abilities. It has been suggested that the emergence of intelligence might be associated with the expansion of specific regions of the brain, particularly the neocortex, which is responsible for complex cognitive functions such as reasoning, planning, and decision-making.

Theories of Intelligence

Various theories have been proposed to account for the evolution of intelligence in humans and other species. One such theory, known as the successful intelligence theory, proposes that intelligence is comprised of three distinct components:

  • Analytical intelligence: The ability to evaluate information and solve problems.
  • Creative intelligence: The ability to come up with new ideas.
  • Practical intelligence: The ability to adapt to a changing environment[3].

This theory posits that these three aspects of intelligence act in conjunction to enable an organism to effectively navigate its environment, adapt to changes, and solve a wide range of problems. Moreover, a balance between these different aspects of intelligence is considered essential for an organism's survival and successful reproduction.


Intelligence is a complex trait that has been shaped by evolutionary pressures to favor individuals with greater cognitive adaptability and problem-solving abilities. Evolutionary psychology provides important insights into the emergence of intelligence and its significance for the fitness and reproductive success of organisms. Although more research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms and evolutionary dynamics of intelligence, it is clear that this trait has played a crucial role in the development and adaptation of species in the face of environmental challenges.