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The Gap : The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals
by Thomas Suddendorf


Overview - There exists an undeniable chasm between the capacities of humans and those of animals. Our minds have spawned civilizations and technologies that have changed the face of the Earth, whereas even our closest animal relatives sit unobtrusively in their dwindling habitats.  Read more...

 
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More About The Gap by Thomas Suddendorf
 
 
 
Overview
There exists an undeniable chasm between the capacities of humans and those of animals. Our minds have spawned civilizations and technologies that have changed the face of the Earth, whereas even our closest animal relatives sit unobtrusively in their dwindling habitats. Yet despite longstanding debates, the nature of this apparent gap has remained unclear. What exactly is the difference between our minds and theirs?

In The Gap, psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of the mental qualities that separate humans from other animals, as well as how these differences arose. Drawing on two decades of research on apes, children, and human evolution, he surveys the abilities most often cited as uniquely human--language, intelligence, morality, culture, theory of mind, and mental time travel--and finds that two traits account for most of the ways in which our minds appear so distinct: Namely, our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect on scenarios, and our insatiable drive to link our minds together. These two traits explain how our species was able to amplify qualities that we inherited in parallel with our animal counterparts; transforming animal communication into language, memory into mental time travel, sociality into mind reading, problem solving into abstract reasoning, traditions into culture, and empathy into morality.

Suddendorf concludes with the provocative suggestion that our unrivalled status may be our own creation--and that the gap is growing wider not so much because we are becoming smarter but because we are killing off our closest intelligent animal relatives.

Weaving together the latest findings in animal behavior, child development, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience, this book will change the way we think about our place in nature. A major argument for reconsidering what makes us human, The Gap is essential reading for anyone interested in our evolutionary origins and our relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780465030149
  • ISBN-10: 0465030149
  • Publisher: Basic Books (AZ)
  • Publish Date: November 2013
  • Page Count: 358
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Science > Life Sciences - Evolution
Books > Psychology > Cognitive Psychology & Cognition
Books > Science > Life Sciences - Zoology - Primatology

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-08-26
  • Reviewer: Staff

To determine what distinguishes the mental capabilities of humans from those of our closest living relatives (chimpanzees and great apes), Australian psychologist Suddendorf uses diverse data drawn from the worlds of human developmental theory, infant and child psychology, and primate ethology to walk a moderate line between “romantic” and “killjoy” interpretations of animal “behavior as an indicator of mind.” He explores six realms in which human thinking appears to be qualitatively different from that of animals—“language, mental time travel, mind reading, intelligence, culture, and morality”—and finally locates the gap in the interaction between two key mental capacities: nested scenario building and the urge to connect. His analysis of the of the gap’s development is much more straightforward, as he digs into evolutionary theory, molecular evidence, and the fossil record to show interbreeding and physical signs of intermediate capacities in early hominin species, positing that we Homo sapiens widened the gap by murdering our nearest evolutionary neighbors. His musings provoke thought about humanity’s place in the community of life, and he considers whether a rich or lean interpretation of the inner worlds of the creatures around us serves us best. (Nov.)

 
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