chapter  10
The Evolution of Learning and Memory in Humans
Comparative perspectives on testing adaptive hypotheses
WithMark A. Krause, Crickette Sanz
Pages 22

How has evolution influenced human learning and memory processes? A complex question like this needs multiple sources of data and evidence just to arrive at what will be, for the time being, a best guess. Also, we cannot expect to answer this question by limiting ourselves to a relatively short snapshot of evolutionary time, no matter how influential the events that took place during then might have been. Human learning and memory processes have evolved over a vast timeframe with a unique set of environmental circumstances. Therefore, comparative studies are one important source of data. Another source of data comes from research inspired by human evolutionary psychology that examines memory in modern day humans with tasks devised to tap into putative psychological adaptations that arose during the evolution of the genus Homo. We focus here on the evolution of episodic memory and the capacity for mental time travel, the ability to re-experience past events and imagine future ones. We review work done on humans and nonhuman species with the aim of revealing the importance of considering comparative data in testing adaptive hypotheses about learning and memory.