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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts.
As a Physicist by training, I tend to look for strong evidence and assess it objectively. I found the evidence for the rule of three and Dunbar's number, as presented, a little weak, given that humans tend to find patterns even in random numbers. More particularly, the aspect that I found most disconcerting is that, in places, the book asserted the social brain hypothesis...
Published 10 months ago by JOHN STEWART PLANT

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Start with this and you find yourself in a bigining of new road...
Published 5 months ago by Kari Saarvola, s.c.


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts., 29 Aug. 2014
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As a Physicist by training, I tend to look for strong evidence and assess it objectively. I found the evidence for the rule of three and Dunbar's number, as presented, a little weak, given that humans tend to find patterns even in random numbers. More particularly, the aspect that I found most disconcerting is that, in places, the book asserted the social brain hypothesis as though it were established fact, thereby displaying a rather worrying bias, given that many, if not most, people do not accept that the hypothesis is well established. In other parts, the book was much more cautious about the speculation that group size drove brain size and hence human evolution. With the addition of more objective skepticism, the account made for more pleasant and indeed, for me as an outsider, very interesting reading. Perhaps, the slight variability of assertion and caution arose because of the different approaches of the three different authors. In the grand scheme of things however, this is more of a quibble than a major point.

I have since started reading "Social Physics" by another author, Alex Pentland, and this uses more robust big data from the modern digital age. Though I have barely started that book, it appears to show that social interaction in the modern world is far less straightforward than the social brain hypothesis would have us believe. That said, it is relevant to add that, great apes aside, there is much less evidence for the social patterns of our hominid ancestors and one can well take the view that even wild speculation is better than nothing (provided that it is not taken too seriously). In Thinking Big, the speculation is mostly carefully explained. All in all, it seemed to me to be a valiant attempt to peer through the mists surrounding our prehistoric past, albeit that I did not always find the assertions about the glimpsed apparition convincing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from my blog: The authors start from the Machiavellian ..., 12 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind (Hardcover)
from my blog:
The authors start from the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis (we need large brains to be able to deceive others in our social group) to which Gamble et al counter with the social brain hypothesis. They claim that sophisticated social animals need to be able to mentalize (infer others state of mind) at high levels of sophistication and to understand complex social structure while maintaining cohesion. Laughter and music act as substitutes to grooming and are termed social grooming. Social grooming happens in our mind. And our mind is about being relational and not just rational. All social emotions (guilt, shame, pride) are only possible when a belief exists about another’s belief (mentalizing). By developing social structures and language we are also able to “store relationships”, which facilitates the creation of even larger social units. While language is furthermore driven by the necessity to accommodate interaction with “unobserved” others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 23 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind (Hardcover)
Excellent thought provoking book by a leading archaeological writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 24 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind (Hardcover)
Start with this and you find yourself in a bigining of new road...
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book; contains a stimulating hybrid of recent developments in archealogy and evolutionary psychology., 4 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind (Hardcover)
Good book; contains a stimulating hybrid of recent developments in archealogy and evolutionary psychology.
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Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind
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