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The Human Animal

Notes from Prof. Robert Sapolsky’s talk at the Being Human 2013 seminar last week in San Francisco.

– Are just like any animal, in certain ways
– Have the same basic design, but novel use, in other ways
– Have certain features that have no animal precedent

Like Any Animal
“the Wellesley effect”
Socially extrovert females synchronize ovulation cycles with their peers, like all other animals; Chess grandmasters have the same blood pressure

Same Basic Design, Novel Use
– Aggression (Humans are not the only species that kill for group reasons)
– Theory of Mind (at what age do humans learn that others have thoughts different from ours)
– “The Golden Rule” (tit-for-tat reciprocity)
– Empathy (Ability to feel pain of other characters/species)
– Pleasure in anticipation/Postponed gratification
– Culture
– Only animal that has non-reproductive sex

Unique, No Animal Precedent
– language capable of abstract terminology
– symbols & metaphor
– ideology creation



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