We rely constantly on self-control in every aspect of our lives. Although it is not an ability unique to humans, our elevated levels of self-control may have played a key role in our evolution. Self-control is likely to have been key to many of the traits such as prosociality, that define modern humans. Despite this, attempts to study the evolution of self control through characteristics of the archaeological record have been few. Studies of related concepts such as inhibitory control have often been vague and do not reflect the whole scope of self-control. Defining self-control as arising from a combination of cognitive abilities including inhibition and the conscious regulation of emotions, this paper sets out a novel approach. We identify links between material culture, behaviours and the cognitive–emotional processes underlying them and produce testable predictions of what increases in these abilities might look like in the archaeological record. Using an example, we consider how late Acheulean handaxes (bifaces) demonstrate five characteristics that can be related to forms of self-control: deliberate practice, forward planning, time and energy investment, hierarchical processing, and distress tolerance. This provides some initial insights and lays the groundwork for future research in this area.
|Journal||Time and Mind|
|Early online date||3 Apr 2020|
|Publication status||Published - 3 Apr 2020|
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- human evolution
- cognitive evolution