As a teacher, I encourage students to consider what makes humans unique by looking through the evolutionary lens at our closest living relatives. In my courses, students actively engage in scientific investigations of primate evolution, animal behavior, and comparative cognition. I enable my students to critically evaluate scientific studies, assess the significance of these finding, consider how these findings influence our understanding of human behavior, and develop novel and innovative questions to further our understanding of primate evolution.
ANTHRBIO 297: UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIAL MIND
Why are humans so smart? One promising hypothesis suggests that the large and advanced cognitive abilities in humans, and our primate relatives, evolved as a response to the challenges associated with living in large and complex social groups. Many aspects of human nature from friendship to deception, fairness to discrimination, language and morality, likely evolved to help us successfully navigate our intricate social networks. Yet humans are not alone in having a social mind, our closest primate relatives also deal with the pressures of living in social groups. What socio-cognitive abilities do we share with non-human primates and other social animals? What aspects make the human mind so unique?