Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hyper Social meme-swapping omnivores

One morning, several years back, I walked into a room full of monkeys. The first thing I noticed was that a young, first time mother had given birth during the night. She was cradling the infant and lip smacking to it to convey reassurance. Only she was holding the infant upside down and lip smacking to its butt. Ouch, monkey. Obviously we needed a more experienced mother with an infant of her own to set the example, and needed her quick.

Photos courtesy of the
Oregon National Primate Research Center.
 Public Domain 
Besides being simultaneously alarming and amusing, the moment also drove home how impoverished we primates are when it comes to instincts. And how much of what we are born with is concentrated on early developmental issues. Everything from the innate fixation on faces, the wiggly attempts of toddlers held upright to reflexively walk, to the cooing, and babbling, and other language acquisition behaviors that even those who are born deaf exhibit. Beyond our earliest years, we're mostly reliant on an array of somewhat flexible drives and soft wired cognitive biases to help make us the hyper social, meme-swapping omnivores that we are.

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