Merlin Donald
The mind considered from a historical perspective:
Human cognitive phylogenesis and the possibility of continuing cognitive evolution

In The Future of the Cognitive Revolution
Edited by David Martel Johnson and Christina E. Erneling.
New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997. 355-365


The author discusses the evolution of language and takes it to be a unique human adaptation. Presupposing and interacting with changes to what was essentially a primate brain, language emerged in a social context as an ability to repeat, refine, and remember already existing action patterns and non-linguistic skills, which then took on a communicative and representative function. Thus, to understand phenomenon like language, we need to look beyond the internal structure of present day humans to both non-mental skills and the historical contexts that allowed these skills to develop and take on new functions.... Donald also brings out examples of the mind's cultural and dynamic character. He argues that mental processes are not static; they change over time, where the mind is considered from both a phylogenetic and an ontogenetic point of view. These changes are not the result of genetic or biological changes, but are due to changes in human culture and social practices. This is illustrated by discussing the skill of reading.


Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles