You also need the fifth C, compression

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A note for Lesson no. 7, "Our Brains Can Create Reality," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 114 is:

...large brain size and high complexity are not enough to make and maintain social reality. You also need the fifth C, compression...

The appendix adds:

A big, complex brain with the capacity to compress, however, is probably not sufficient on its own for small bits of social reality to cohere into a civilization.

To learn a bit more about compression in the brain, see chapter 6 and appendix C in How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain,[1] as well as these references.[2][3][4][5]

There are also genetic changes and associated structural and metabolic changes in the cells found in layers 2 and 3 of the human cerebral cortex, and these likely contribute to the human brain's capacity for compression.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

For more detail on the metabolic conditions for social reality, see these references.[13][14]


  1. Barrett, Lisa Feldman. 2017. How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, chapter 6. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  2. Finlay, Barbara L, and Ryutaro Uchiyama. 2015. “Developmental Mechanisms Channeling Cortical Evolution.” Trends in Neurosciences 38 (2): 69–76.
  3. Barrett, Lisa Feldman and Barbara L. Finlay. 2018. “Concepts, Goals and the Control of Survival-Related Behaviors.” Current Opinion in the Behavioral Sciences 24: 172–179.
  4. Chanes, Lorena, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2016. "Redefining the Role of Limbic Areas in Cortical Processing." Trends in Cognitive Sciences 20 (2): 96–106.
  5. Brincat, Scott L., Markus Siegel, Constantin von Nicolai, and Earl K. Miller. 2018. "Gradual Progression From Sensory To Task-related Processing in Cerebral Cortex." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115 (30): E7202-E7211.
  6. Sherwood, Chet C., and Aida Gómez-Robles. 2017. "Brain Plasticity and Human Evolution." Annual Review of Anthropology 46: 399–419.
  7. Sherwood, C. C., A. L. Bauernfeind, A. Verendeev, M. A. Raghanti, and P. R. Hof. 2017. "Evolutionary Specializations of Human Brain Microstructure." In Evolution of Nervous Systems, second edition, volume 4, edited by Jon H. Kaas, 121–139. New York: Elsevier.
  8. Krienen, Fenna M., BT Thomas Yeo, Tian Ge, Randy L. Buckner, and Chet C. Sherwood. 2016. "Transcriptional Profiles of Supragranular-Enriched Genes Associate With Corticocortical Network Architecture in the Human Brain." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 (4): E469–E478.
  9. Wei, Yongbin, Siemon C. De Lange, Lianne H. Scholtens, Kyoko Watanabe, Dirk Jan Ardesch, Philip R. Jansen, Jeanne E. Savage et al. 2019. "Genetic Mapping and Evolutionary Analysis of Human-Expanded Cognitive Networks." Nature Communications 10 (1): 1–11.
  10. Cáceres, Mario, Joel Lachuer, Matthew A. Zapala, John C. Redmond, Lili Kudo, Daniel H. Geschwind, David J. Lockhart, Todd M. Preuss, and Carrolee Barlow. 2003. "Elevated Gene Expression Levels Distinguish Human From Non-Human Primate Brains." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (22): 13030–13035.
  11. Laland, Kevin N., John Odling-Smee, and Sean Myles. 2010. "How Culture Shaped the Human Genome: Bringing Genetics and the Human Sciences Together." Nature Reviews Genetics 11 (2): 137–148.
  12. Spocter, Muhammad A., William D. Hopkins, Sarah K. Barks, Serena Bianchi, Abigail E. Hehmeyer, Sarah M. Anderson, Cheryl D. Stimpson, Archibald J. Fobbs, Patrick R. Hof, and Chet C. Sherwood. 2012. "Neuropil Distribution in the Cerebral Cortex Differs Between Humans and Chimpanzees." Journal of Comparative Neurology 520 (13): 2917–2929.
  13. Laland, Kevin N. 2017. Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind, 237–241. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  14. Wrangham, Richard. 2010. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Philadelphia: Perseus Books.