Revisiting the cognitive buffer hypothesis for the evolution of large brains

Daniel Sol


Why have some animals evolved large brains despite substantial energetic and developmental costs? A classic answer is that a large brain facilitates the construction of behavioural responses to unusual, novel or complex socioecological challenges. This buffer effect should increase survival rates and favour a longer reproductive life, thereby compensating for the costs of delayed reproduction. Although still limited, evidence in birds and mammals is accumulating that a large brain facilitates the construction of novel and altered behavioural patterns and that this ability helps dealing with new ecological challenges more successfully, supporting the cognitive-buffer interpretation of the evolution of large brains.



  • One contribution of 10 to a Special Feature on ‘Brain evolution’.

    • Received October 23, 2008.
    • Accepted November 17, 2008.
View Full Text