chapter  10
11 Pages

Cognitive and Social Advantages of a Lateralized Brain

O f the many examples o f lateralization in vertebrates some are expressed at the individual level only (i.e., not aligned in the population) and others at both the individual and population level. This chapter addresses the advantages and disadvan­ tages of both manifestations of lateralization. First, it discusses results of experiments con­ ducted with chicks and marmosets showing that having a lateralized brain enhances an animals ability to perform more than one task simultaneously. By allocating the processing required for one task (searching for food) to the left hemisphere and that required for the other task (detect­ ing a predator) to the right hemisphere, animals increase their capacity to attend to both tasks at the same time. Since this advantage of having a lateralized brain applies only to the indi­ vidual and does not require lateralization at the population level, another explanation is needed for the latter. Indeed, population level lateralization would seem to have the disadvantage of, for example, predators exploiting their preys bias to respond to their presence more readily on the left side. Hence, this apparent disadvantage might have to be counteracted by other distinct advantages of population lateralization. Here the hypothesis that advantages occur in social interactions between lateralized individuals is considered. Some concluding remarks are made about lateralization in primates, and its potential association with social behavior, and the development of lateralization in the chick as a model demonstrating the multiple interactive influences on lateralization.