Although we share many aspects of our behaviour and biology with our primate cousins, humans are, nonetheless, different in one crucial respect: our capacity to live in the world of the imagination. This is reflected in two core aspects of our behaviour that are in many ways archetypal of what it is to be human: religion and story-telling. The lecture will show how these remarkable traits seem to have arisen as a natural development of the social brain hypothesis, and the underlying nature of primate sociality and cognition, as human societies have been forced to expand in size during the course of our evolution over the past 5 million years.
Professor Robin Dunbar was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1998. He is a Project Director of the British Academy Centenary Research Project ‘Lucy to Language’: The Archaeology of the Social Brain, and is shortly to leave the University of Liverpool to take up the post of Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford.
Professor Robin Dunbar FBA, Director, Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford
Lecture chair: Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve, President, British Academy