(tentative version, 01/20/09) -- this may be revised throughout the semester-- and especially during the first week of class.)

instructor info

 John Limber, 108 Conant Hall; office hours 11-1150 am, Wednesday & Thursday (with some exceptions) 12:40-1:40pm and by appointment . I usually have time for quick questions after class. My office phone is 862-3175; I will answer it if I am there, but do not leave voice messages! You can leave messages for me at 862-2360.

  E-mail: john.limber@unh.edu (I check this every day and will try to promptly answer any questions sent me with the subject header 512.


text, readings, and notes

(these materials should be viewed as resources for the exams and background for class discussions and videos.)

text- (only available at the Durham Book Exchange)

de Waal, F. B. M. (Ed.). (2001). Tree of origin: what primate behavior can tell us about human social evolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.  (paperback version available)

Gomez, J. C. (2004). Apes, monkeys, children, and the growth of mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

general references (previous texts)  

Jones, S., Martin, R. D., & Pilbeam, D. (Ed.). (1992).  The Cambridge encyclopedia of human evolution. Cambridge:   Cambridge University Press.  (One copy will be on reserve and some relevant pages on Blackboard.  This will be essentially a backup for info missed in class.)

Tomasello, M., & Call, J. (1997). Primate cognition. New York: Oxford University Press. (reserve)

( previous text; has great review of research to date)

NOTE: the assignments use PC, EHE, Gomez and TO as abbreviations for the above four books.

reserve readings

A number of books and papers are on reserve including copies of EHE and PC. Most other readings will be available online via the class webpage or through Blackboard.


internet  materials

Additional readings, notes, old exams, and primate information will be found on my webpage under the heading of "Primates."

All video and class notes should be read for exam information. Exams will also have a question or two taken from the "Primates in the NEws" feature.

http://pubpages.unh.edu/~jel See especially the "primates in the news" and "what's new at the WRPRC."

Daily notes --

See these for the actual topics considered in class that week.. Here are last semesters notes. This semester's notes will be found here.

Blackboard reserve readings

Some required reserve readings will be online through the course Blackboard account  (PSYC512-01).  This will require your password for access.


The most significant component of this class is the many primate videos we will see.  You are expected to attend class regularly as seeing these cannot be made up.  You also are required to read any video notes available.  (If you don't like watching videos, I suggest you take another class.)

To send directly to the instructor, use John.Limber@unh.eduDo NOT send me any mail without a relevant subject heading including 512, e.g. 512 question, or it may not be read.

goals, grading and requirements


The foremost goal of this course is to further our understanding of human nature.  There is a focus on cognitive ability and its interrelation with perceptual and social behavior, through a comparative and contrastive study of primates.

We will focus primarily on the behavior of large primates including us humans but we will also look into the biological and evolutionary foundations of those behaviors.  Inevitably there will be discussion of various methodological, historical, philosophical and ethical issues surrounding primates and their study.

Grading -- exams and paper

Your grade will be based primarily on 3 exams, a final 6 to 8 page paper worth about 1 exam due May 11 and class participation including any brief assignments, bringing new information, to our attention, and improvement.  Plan ahead for these exam dates: 02/22, 3/29, 4/30 -- there is NO final exam..

There can be no makeup exams If you have a problem with the scheduled dates talk with me before the exam.  No final exam



The exams will include multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions; a study guide will be available one week before each exam.

The exams are somewhat cumulative but will focus on recent material as indicated in the study guides.

Example old exams will be available on the web page. (This is more than a convenience; questions are carefully designed to reflect important concepts in a large array of information we will encounter this semester. The multiple choice questions are designed not only to tap basic concepts, but to encourage everyone to attend class. A certain number of questions are based on videos shown in class.)

research paper due May 11, 4:00pm (or sooner!) --PRINTED COPIES ONLY!

This paper may be on any topic related to course material-- and approved my me (JL).  It must be in APA style in regard to footnotes and references.    You will lose serious points for incomplete references.

The structure and goals will vary for each of you but all --with few exceptions-- should involve (1) a brief review of the topic,

(2) a comparative analysis with some implications for human psychology, (3) at least two references within the last three years 2007-2009

(one from a non-internet source, one from non-class materials) and (4) some explicit reference and integration with class materials,where appropriate.  Everyone will turn in a topic and outline (email is ok for outline; not final paper).

  All outlines (with appropriate references) must be approved by me before you begin the paper;

these outlines must be attached at the end of your paper when submitted.  You may submit your topics and outline any time before November 22. Why this date? It will give you time to obtain materials from interlibrary loan if needed.

  (email is ok with heading "512".)

I assume you all know the difference between summarizing others ideas and plagiarism; if you have any questions see me. If in doubt give the complete reference-- for example if you got a factoid or idea from a paper by John Limber published in 1977, stick in a reference (Limber, 1977, p.282) and include the full reference in your APA style reference page at the end of your paper.

Limber, J. (1977). Language in child and chimp? American Psychologist, 32, 280-295 (Reprinted in Sebeok, T. & Sebeok, J. (Eds.) (1980). Speaking of Apes (pp.1197-1218). New York: Plenum Press.).

When in doubt, cite the source of your idea. (If you want to do something different other than a review paper for your project, talk with me as soon as possible.)

  More info at


class participation

I expect everyone to attend class and contribute to the discussion--many of you may have knowledge in topics relevant to this class. Rarely there may be a short written assignment. I will try to reserve a few minutes each week to answer questions in class.

  You will be responsible for any information discussed in class, shown in videos, or raised in your readings whether discussed or not.

If you don't understand--ask! --either in class, afterward, or by email.  There are probably dozens of you with the same question.

 course calendar (up to exam 1, Thursday, 2/19)


Nearly all of your assignments will be given well in advance but on occasion new material comes along and I will give you something not on this schedule. Keep track of the actual class topics on the Daily Notes.

  You should read the material on or before the dates shown on the schedule below-use the exam guides for specific details.


In addition to explicit assignments, I strongly recommend you review old exams and my various notes before any of the exams.

  This schedule is tentative, based on last year's progress so some deviation may occur -- and some new assignments will be made, especially in the final two weeks. See the daily notes for more up-to-date information.

week 01      the primate family

the basic questions for first exam

Who are the primates?  Where and when did they appear? How they related?  What are their characteristics?  How are humans different from other large apes?  (Body, locomotion and motor skills, sensory systems, cognitive and social/sexual behaviors?).  How do we know any of this?


Gomez pp.preface, 1-27 and class notes on video etc.

Tree of Origin (TO), Introduction

video "Life in the trees." Followed by "children of eve"

(Info on the primate family is in EHE: pp.1-33; Appendix 2 (p. 454-455).  I'm including these EHE references as a kind of backup in case you missed this information from class.)

week 02    evolution, methods, ancestors, history, orangs,

How do we know about primate ancestors?  What factors make evolution work?  How much do primates share in locomotion, body structures, senses and brains?


video: Children of Eve -- see web notes and more on DNA, plate tectonics, climate "bottlenecks" etc.

Orangutans - video and notes.

history of ideas on evolution

Limber, J. (1982). What accounts for our fascination with the language of apes? unpublished manuscript, Durham, NH.    [Sample what the ancients thought; and especially read Descartes' ideas on differences between humans and brutes.  Many today (see Rumbaugh et al (1996) believe recent research on nonhuman primates has destroyed Descartes' argument--but has it??]  (available on the webpage and reserve.)

Selected readings from Darwin (1871)  (webpage)

Gorilla video

Gomez, ch. 2 perceiving a world of objects.

week 3  (Feb 03-05) bodies: locomotion, senses, brains

de Waal (2001) Intro 1-8 of TO

Wrangham in TO, ch. 5, pp.121-143.  Wrangham documents the evolution of modern humans from the perspective of diet.  Note Fig. 5.1 and 5.2. Also read the "Primates in the News" where several articles on diet and brains are of interest. (remember EHE readings are on Blackboard.) This is good point to reiterate a familiar theme -- humans evolved as we are today because of the joint interaction of many nearly inseparable factors -- environment, diet, existing genes and a good deal of chance.

Chimps and bonobo video

(EHE 2.8 -2.9 locomotion pp.75-85 ; the parens indicate an optional reading)

(EHE 9.4  Human hand manipulation)

(EHE 3.1 primate brains and senses; 3.2 the human brain, pp.107-123.)

Gomez, ch. 3 Practical intelligence. (note Fig 3.1, Piiaget's stages of sensorimotor intelligence.)


week 4  (2/12)   get study guide for exam 1

Darwin's 200th birthday is 2/12.

Get study guide for exam 1.  Outline essays ahead of time! Ask if you are not sure ...

Finish reading and work on study guide

See old exam on webpage.

Jane Goodall video


week 5  (Feb 19, Thursday) exam


review sensory & brain functions


"split brain" consequences in humans - cerebral specialization (lateralization of brain function) is one of the major evolutionary changes in transition of early primates to human primates (along with brain size increases).

Gazzaniga's patient, Joe video

Read notes; note the idea of "hemispherectomy".


Read Premack, D. (2007). "Human and animal cognition: Continuity and discontinuity." Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 104(35): 13861-13867. (Abstract below; paper (7 pages) on Blackboard or online in UNH Library.)

Microscopic study of the human brain has revealed neural struc-
tures, enhanced wiring, and forms of connectivity among nerve
cells not found in any animal, challenging the view that the human
brain is simply an enlarged chimpanzee brain. On the other hand,
cognitive studies have found animals to have abilities once
thought unique to the human. This suggests a disparity between
brain and mind. The suggestion is misleading. Cognitive research
has not kept pace with neural research. Neural findings are based
on microscopic study of the brain and are primarily cellular.
Because cognition cannot be studied microscopically, we need to
refine the study of cognition by using a different approach. In
examining claims of similarity between animals and humans, one
must ask: What are the dissimilarities? This approach prevents
confusing similarity with equivalence. We follow this approach in
examining eight cognitive cases—teaching, short-term memory,
causal reasoning, planning, deception, transitive inference, theory
of mind, and language—and find, in all cases, that similarities
between animal and human abilities are small, dissimilarities large.
There is no disparity between brain and mind.

New chimps with bonobos

See the topic outline to second exam, as well as the forthcoming video notes on this "intelligence" video.

Read the excellent online summary of primate brains and thought.

Read this excellent online description of bonobos in nature and the research on them.

Raffaele, P. (2006). "The smart and swinging bonobo." Smithsonian 37(8): 66-75.


Week 06 --

review chapter 3 in Gomez "Practical intelligence" - pay special attention to his account of Piaget's ideas on intelligence and stages of development.

review the excellent online summary of primate brains and thought.-- note the comments on role of diet. See my notes on primate diet and implications

Week 07 --

Read in Tree of Origin
Byne, R. Social and technical forms of primate intelligence In TO, ch. 6, 145-172
Dunbar, R. Brains on two legs; Group size and the evolution of intelligence, ch.7,173-192

Read quickly through Gomez, ch 4, 5, and 6


Week 08 ---

Read quickly through Gomez, ch 4, 5, and 6 -- the main themes to attend to are the relation between self as object and other objects, especially tool use and social relations.

Read chapter 7 and 10 in Gomez (on communication)

read Read Snowden (2001) in TO ch. 8 Primate communication to human language

Read Stanford, C. B. (2001) chapter 4 in TO "The ape's gift: meat-eating, meat-sharing, and human evolution.pp.97-117.

Week 09 (Spring break but look for exam 2 guide by Friday, March 13.)

read Gomez ch. 8

read Gomez, ch. 9 on social learning, imitiation, and culture

reveiw Premack (2007)

Week 10 -exam 2, Thursday, Mar.24

review Gomez, ch. 10 on Consciousness and language

review Snowden, TO, ch. 8 language and communication

read Premack, D. (2004). Psychology. Is language the key to human intelligence? Science, 303(5656), 318-320.


Week 11  (3/31-4/02)               


(to be determined)

Week 12 (4/07-09)

read Gomez, ch. 11 on learning from comparisons

read Strier, ch. 3 beyond the apes

read deWaal TO, ch. apes from Venus

review Maggioncalda, A. N.and Sapolsky, R. (2002) Disturbing behaviors of the the orangutan, Scientific American, June.(download from Blackboard)

Week 13 (4/14-16)

read McGrew, TO ch. 9 on culture:

read quickly to get the gist--Konner, M., & Worthman, C. (1980). Nursing frequency, gonadal function and birth spacing among !Kung hunter-gathers. Science, 207, 788-790. On BB documents.

Bard, K. (1995). Parenting in primates. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Biology and ecology of parenting (Vol. 2, pp. 27-58). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. (download from Blackboard)

Week 14 get study guide 3, Thursday 4/23.

>Read the abstract and skim through this online paper.

Mazur, A., & Booth, A. (2001). Testosterone and dominance in men. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21, 353-397.


review, read notes

Week 15 exam 3, April 30

read Ethics notes and this short paper on 512 Blackboard or via UNH library:

Cohen, J. (2007). Biomedical research: The endangered lab chimp. Science, 315, 450-452.

Week 16 -- (yes there is class this week May 03-05)

project Due May 11;3 pm or sooner --typed and in my office, Conant 108.