As our cerebral cortex evolved and increased in size, so did our ability to do a better job of recognizing patterns. According to Dr. Mark Mattson of Johns Hopkins University, we did this by not just expanding the raw, cognitive power available for pattern recognition by utilizing many different brain regions and neuronal networks, but also by developing novel ways of recognizing patterns. 

By far the most amazing novel capability we have developed is the way in which we process patterns. Unlike even the most powerful computers which currently process data sequentially – one task at a time – we analyze data by means of our massively parallel processing capacity. We can address multiple datasets simultaneously because our mind stores information hierarchically within which we can recognize patterns. This is not such a surprising strategy since nature is hierarchical, and we are part of nature. Even small children are massively parallel pattern recognition machines. A million years ago, this ability further separated us from other hominins.

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Excerpted from my book Hybrid Learning.