The Appearance of the Child Prodigy 10,000 Years Ago: An Evolutionary and Developmental Explanation
Larry R. Vandervert
Feldman and Goldsmith (1991) sought an evolutionary explanation of the child prodigy phenomenon. Following in this vein, a theory involving the evolution and development of the collaboration of working memory and the cognitive functions of the cerebellum is presented with commentary on Edmunds and Noel’s (2003) report on a child’s literary precocity. It is argued that (1) the evolution of working memory and the cerebellum within the increasing rule-governed complexity of culture may have produced the child prodigy within agricultural villages as early as 10,000 years ago, (2) in child prodigies, heightened emotional–attentional control in the central executive of working memory and modeled in the cerebellum is acquired in infancy through perceptual analysis (Mandler, 1992a, 1992b, 2004), and (3) this heightened emotional–attentional control begins in visuospatial processing, links visuospatial and language processing in working memory (Vandervert, in press), and initiates and accelerates a positive feedback loop with the cerebellum in a specific knowledge domain. It is concluded that the working memory– cerebellar approach provides an evolutionary and developmental explanation of the child prodigy and strongly supports Edmunds and Noel’s visuospatial–high verbal ability explanation.
***BONUS FOLLOW-UP STUDY WITH NEW DATA***
The Evolution of Language: The Cerebro-Cerebellar Blending of Visual-Spatial Working Memory with Vocalizations
Leiner, Leiner, and Dow proposed that the co-evolution of cerebral cortex and the cerebellum over the last million years gave rise to the unique cognitive capacities and language of humans. Following the findings of recent imaging studies by Imamizu and his colleagues, it is proposed that over the last million or so years language evolved from the blending of (1) decomposed/re-composed contexts or “moments” of visual-spatial experience with (2) those of sound patterns decomposed/re-composed from parallel context-appropriate vocalizations (calls or previously acquired “words”). It is further proposed that the adaptive value of this blending was the progressively rapid access to the control of detailed cause- and-effect relationships in working memory as it entered new and challenging environ- ments. Employing the complex syntactical sequence of nut-cracking among capuchin monkeys it is proposed how cerebro-cerebellar blending of low-volume vocalization and visual-spatial working memory could have produced the beginnings of the phonological loop as proposed by Baddeley, Gathercole, and Papagno. It is concluded that the blending of cerebellar internal models in the cerebral cortex can explain the evolution of human advancements in the manipulation of cause-and-effect ideas in working memory, and, therefore, the emergence of the distinctive “cognitive niche” of humans proposed by Tooby and DeVore and supportively elaborated by Pinker.