A Tentative Role for FOXP2 in the Evolution of Dual Processing Modes and Generative Abilities

Courtney ChruschUniversity of British Columbia
Liane GaboraUniversity of British Columbia

Abstract

It has been suggested that the origins of cognitive modernity in the Middle/Upper Paleolithic following the appearance of anatomically modern humans was due to the onset of dual processing or contextual focus (CF), the ability to shift between different modes of thought: an explicit mode conducive to logical problem solving, and an implicit mode conducive to free-association and breaking out of a rut. Mathematical and computational models of CF supported this hypothesis, showing that CF is conducive to making creative connections by placing concepts in new contexts. This paper proposes that CF was made possible by mutation of the FOXP2 gene in the Paleolithic. FOXP2, once thought to be the “language gene”, turned out not to be uniquely associated with language. In its modern form FOXP2 enabled fine-tuning of the neurological mechanisms underlying the capacity to shift between processing modes by varying the size of the activated region of memory.

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