University of Cambridge > > Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series > On the origin of human sociality: Ape minds and the evolution of Homo sapiens

On the origin of human sociality: Ape minds and the evolution of Homo sapiens

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ljerka Ostojic.

Humans exhibit a remarkable pattern of sociality characterized by nuanced cooperative and competitive relationships. To navigate this complex social landscape, our species has evolved a unique suite of social cognitive traits. Chief among these is theory of mind, the ability to take others’ perspectives and imagine how they see the world. Determining how such traits—and our broader sociality—evolved, and the extent to which they are shared with our closest extant relatives remain fundamental problems at the intersection of anthropology, psychology, and evolutionary biology. In the present talk, I will discuss our recent investigations of theory of mind in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus), and orangutans (Pongo abelii). This work suggests that great apes may be able to model how others see the world, even when others’ beliefs conflict with reality, and that this essential human skill may have already been present millions of years ago in our last common ancestor. In closing, I will describe future directions aimed at elucidating the nature and evolution of social cognition in humans and other apes.

This talk is part of the Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series series.

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