BLOOMINGTON - Researchers with The Stone Age Institute in Bloomington, in partnership with the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University, have received one of the largest grants ever awarded for human origins research. The John Templeton Foundation in Pennsylvania has awarded the three-year, $3.2 million grant, titled "What Drives Human Cognitive Evolution?"

The research is also in partnership with prehistoric archaeological research projects in Tanzania, the Republic of Georgia and China. IU says the grant will allow researchers to examine and explore prehistoric evidence for fossil human brain expansion.

IU says the grant will help establish a strong focus on evolution of human cognition within the Cognitive Science Program, provide three graduate fellowships and create a distinguished visiting scholars program. The grant will also fund experimental research.

"A key component of studying cognitive science, and one that is too often forgotten, is exploring what various aspects of cognition are for -- what problems did cognition help our ancestors to solve?" said Peter Todd, director of the Cognitive Science Program. "This grant lets us do exactly that, uncovering the evolved cognitive mechanisms that help us tackle central human problems including making tools, constructing sentences, finding information and learning from experts."

The grant will also support science education in Tanzania, Georgia and China. That support includes teacher training, student field trips to museums and archaeological sites and the enhancement of collections and museum exhibits in the three countries. An education website on human cognitive evolution will also be created.

The project leaders are all IU faculty and members of the Cognitive Science Program. Todd joins Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth, who are also founders and co-directors of The Stone Age Institute. Colin Allen, provost professor of history and philosophy of science and medicine, and Tom Schoenemann, associate professor of anthropology, are also part of the research group.