The Evolution of the Human Self: Tracing the Natural History of Self-Awareness


Journal Article (Review)

Previous discussions of the evolution of the self have diverged greatly in their estimates of the date at which the capacity for self-thought emerged, the factors that led self-reflection to evolve, and the nature of the evidence offered to support these disparate conclusions. Beginning with the assumption that human self-awareness involves a set of distinct cognitive abilities that evolved at different times to solve different adaptive problems, we trace the evolution of self-awareness from the common ancestor of humans and apes to the beginnings of culture, drawing upon paleontological, anthropological, biological, and psychological evidence. These data converge to suggest that that modern self-thought appeared just prior to die Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition, approximately 60,000 years ago.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Leary, MR; Buttermore, NR

Published Date

  • December 1, 2003

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 33 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 365 - 404+447

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0021-8308

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1046/j.1468-5914.2003.00223.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus