Becoming human: A theory of ontogeny
Duke University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Humans are biologically adapted for cultural life in ways that other primates are not. Humans have unique motivations and cognitive skills for sharing emotions, experience, and collaborative actions (shared intentionality). These motivations and skills first emerge in human ontogeny at around one year of age, as infants begin to participate with other persons in various kinds of collaborative and joint attentional activities, including linguistic communication. Our nearest primate relatives understand important aspects of intentional action – especially in competitive situations – but they do not seem to have the motivations and cognitive skills necessary to engage in activities involving collaboration, shared intentionality, and, in general, things cultural.