Sharing Information is What Makes Us Uniquely Human
Other primates don’t seem to share their own desires and intentions with others, which leads to a lack of cooperation in a lot of domains.
Dr. Laurie Santos is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Yale University. Her research provides an interface between evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, and cognitive neuroscience, exploring the evolutionary origins of the human mind by comparing the cognitive abilities of human and non-human primates. Her experiments focus on non-human primates (in captivity and in the field), incorporating methodologies from cognitive development, animal learning psychology, and cognitive neuroscience.
The question of what’s uniquely human is a big one and depending on who you ask you might get really different answers.
If I had to put my money on something that was actually uniquely human it seems to be our motivation to actually interact with others in a funny way.
If you see something cool, you say, “Oh hey, look at this cool thing.” And to psychologists this is a process of referring to information out there in the world. It seems like other primates lack at least the motivation to do this. This leads to the fact that they don’t have the kind of communication that we have with things like language with nouns that can kind of point to things out there in the world.
They also don’t seem to share their own desires and intentions with others, which leads to a lack of cooperation in a lot of domains. So if I had to put my money on what was uniquely human I’d go with the kind of motivation to share information with others.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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