Michael Tomasello, Duke University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Humans are biologically adapted for cultural life in ways that other primates are not. Humans have unique motivations and cognitive skills for sharing emotions, experience, and collaborative actions (shared intentionality). These motivations and skills first emerge in human ontogeny at around one year of age, as infants begin to participate with other persons in various kinds of collaborative and joint attentional activities, including linguistic communication. Our nearest primate relatives understand important aspects of intentional action – especially in competitive situations – but they do not seem to have the motivations and cognitive skills necessary to engage in activities involving collaboration, shared intentionality, and, in general, things cultural.
The BEC Speaker Series hosts presentations by renowned scholars from across the social, behavioral, and biological sciences whose work sheds light on human evolution, including issues of cultural transmission, behavioral ecology, affect, cognition, and health.