From what I found many biologists state that animals living in large social groups (elephants, primates, cetaceans etc.) have a tendency for improved cognitive abilities. Yet at the same time there are solitary animals with (suspected) high intelligence such as octopuses and plenty of social animals that fail our cognition tests.

What evolutionary pressures pushed certain animals towards such intelligence when their environments are so different while other animals in a similar environment show no exceptional cognitive skills?

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    $\begingroup$ When asking "how does intelligence evolve?", I personally think the first step is to recognize that intelligence is an umbrella term for a whole lot of cognitive abilities which is directly a hint that one ought to expect a whole of selective pressures may affect everyone of these abilities. For example, long winters will select for good spatial memories in lineages that hide food during the bad season. I therefore think the question is quite broad. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Mar 19, 2017 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that intelligence is a broad term that is hard to measure and sometimes we get too subjective about it. It is not determined by IQ tests. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2017 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ I'll admit that intelligence is pretty much impossible to exactly define but still, some animals exhibit superior self-awareness and abstract thinking (passing mirror test, tool usage). This question is more about the different levels of sentience among animals than just capacity for memorizing. $\endgroup$
    – Koen vd H
    Mar 20, 2017 at 8:02
  • $\begingroup$ @KoenvdH Minor clarification- Do you mean sentience, sapience, or both? $\endgroup$
    – Harris
    Mar 20, 2017 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ @HarrisWeinstein Please do correct me if I'm wrong but i thought sapience is considered exclusive to humans? $\endgroup$
    – Koen vd H
    Mar 22, 2017 at 8:17


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