Brains over Brawn illustration

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Cognitive: relating to conscious intellectual activity.

Clever brains

You check your pockets, but they aren't there. They aren't near the door either. Where could they be? Everyone loses keys now and then, but what do we do when this happens? We backtrack and use our memories to find them. In other words, we use cognition to find our keys.

Cognition is the action or process of gaining knowledge. It involves memory, judgment, and reasoning. Try learning a new word without using your memory—it’s not very effective.

Chimpanzees often use sticks as tools. Image by Pacman.Humans are not the only animals that have cognitive function. In many ways human cognition is an exaggeration of animal cognition. For example, monkeys and apes are great problem solvers, just like us. Many species have come up with clever ways to access foods. For example, chimpanzees use sticks to fish for termites. Similarly, capuchin monkeys use rocks to break open nuts. These cognitive feats do not match what we can do with our cognition, however. Humans have created art, buildings, and cars. Our brains have allowed us to spread and live successfully throughout most of the globe.

When did human ancestors use stone tools?
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