Coevolution of neocortex size, group size and language in humans
oup size is a function of relative neocortical volume in nonhuman primates. Extrapolation from this regression equation yields a predicted group size for modern humans very similar to that of certain hunter-gatherer and traditional horticulturalist societies. Groups of similar size are also found in other large-scale forms of contemporary and historical society. Among primates, the cohesion of groups is maintained by social grooming; the time devoted to social grooming is linearly related to group size among the Old World monkeys and apes. To maintain the stability of the large groups characteristic of humans by grooming alone would place intolerable demands on time budgets. It is suggested that (1) the evolution of large groups in the human lineage depended on the development of a more efficient method for time-sharing the processes of social bonding and that (2) language uniquely fulfills this requirement. Data on the size of conversational and other small interacting groups of humans are in line with the predictions for the relative efficiency of conversation compared to grooming as a bonding process. Analysis of a sample of human conversations shows that about 60% of time is spent gossiping about relationships and personal experiences. It is suggested that language evolved to allow individuals to learn about the behavioural characteristics of other group members more rapidly than is possible by direct observation alone.