Which of these supposed universals might include chimps"


Importance of language -- a human universal

Everywhere there is a human society, there is human language. All languages are based on a similar plan and complexity of language bears no relation to complexity of the culture. Wallace went to some effort to persuade Darwin of this.

Williams syndrome

Language is acquired under a wide range of circumstances and intelligence; no human groups are without it. Individuals with Williams syndrome may have IQs in 50s yet be quite fluent. This suggests general intelligence is not much of a factor in acquiring the basics of our language. (Only the size of one's vocabulary seems to reflect anything like general intelligence.)

(Genetic disorders like Williams syndrome may be possible in non-human primates; there are cases of Down's syndrome reported. Of course in the natural habitats, just the poor vision alone would "filter" out any inherited aspects of Williams syndrome. However the very similar DNA patterns would predict the possibility of similar genetic disorders. Human culture, however, might be less severe in restricting the inheritance of various problems.)


Human vocalization -- controlled by our brain using our unique vocal tracts -- starts with mother and her infants..

(this is true for all mammals, using the same anatomical structure - the larynx but with some specific adaptations and generally controlled by a different, "older" part of the brain. Among primates only humans and gibbons appear to have a melodic aspect to their vocalizations.)

How does "nature" arise?

Wallace and Darwin

Natural selection

Random variations in features

Slight advantages in fitness for some of these features

Advantages inherited

And accumulated over time

"psychology based on a new foundation" Darwin (1859)

"Our minds a product of brains and our brains a product of evolution"

implications for psychology

the mind no longer conceivable as "blank slate" or GP computer

"not just one blade on a knife"

"instead a Swiss army knife"

(The original idea of the mind as a blank slate or "tabula rasa" is usually attributed to John Locke (15xx-16xx) in his famous "Essay on Human Understanding." There he proposes that all human knowledge comes into the mind via the senses, and is saved up modified only by "reflection". On this bogus account of human nature there is none -- we all are identical save for sensory systems and experiences. My guess is that Locke had political objectives in mind when writing his Essay. JL)

some abilities are "by-products"

speaking comes easy -- but not necessarily reading

object permanence

Do objects really vanish when out of sight of babies?

Balleregon's ideas somewhat contrary to Piaget's

Mental maps as representations of the mind/brain

Recall Tomasello and Call -- no special advantage.

Localization of maps in the brain?

Just one type of representation used by the mind

Human universals -- yet variations on a theme?

Why are there human differences?

Yet there is so much in common --human nature!

Us vs them!


Universal desire for fats, salt, and sugars!

No particular desire for fiber!

Sexual jealousy

A survival strategy for your genes??

Facial expressions

A vocabulary of basic universal facial expressions; Paul Ekman's research validates much of Darwin's (1872) work in

Darwin, C. (1872/1998). The expression of emotions in man and animals: Definitive edition. (Third edition with an Introduction, Afterward and Commentaries by Paul Ekman ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The proverbial mind as a "blank slate" -- a totalitarian's dream?

Does Darwin contradict the "American dream?"

We are all variations on theme --but there IS a theme!

(It is worth repeating here that the genetic variation in chimpanzees is several times greater in a chimpanzee social group than all humans. JL. See Woodruff, D. (1999) letter in Science, 285, p,836 for references.)