Friday, March 03, 2006

man, the altruistic ape?

are naked apes more altruistic than their hairy cousins? slate's human nature column has found some experiements that suggest that may be so:

Altruism is more sophisticated in toddlers than in chimps. When a researcher appeared to struggle with a task or accidentally drop an object, 18-month-old toddlers consistently offered to help, but only if the dropping of the object looked accidental rather than deliberate. In a similar experiment, three- and four-year-old chimps often helped, but less readily and only if helping was easy. Theories: 1) Very young humans have both "pro-social motivation" and comprehension of other people's goals. 2) Maybe chimps are less altruistic. 3) No, the chimps handled simpler altruistic tasks well, so the difference must be cognitive. 4) Both the comprehension and the cooperative inclination were probably crucial to our evolution.

maybe the babies were more sophisticated altruists. maybe the other apes just don't like you.


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