Carol Ward: Social interactions are the defining feature of humans, and have shaped all of modern human biology and have set us apart as a species.
That’s anthropologist Carol Ward, of the University of Missouri at Columbia. According to her research, our ‘social intelligence’ – how we learn to interact with each other – has played a large role in our evolution.
Carol Ward: What we realized in looking at the data, and thinking about how the brain works, and how we’re similar and different from other animals, is that it’s really the social interactions that have shaped human evolution. None of the other theories explain all of the aspects of human uniqueness and how it fits together.
Ward said fossil records as well as archeological evidence of behavior, show that the hominid brain increased 250 percent in less than 3 million years. Ward said that throughout human evolution, social interaction became increasingly important to evolutionary success. Humans needed large brains, she said, to negotiate different social settings and social groups.
Carol Ward: It’s the interaction with members of our own species – in terms of competition, cooperation, and help that has shaped the evolution of the human brain and human abilities.
Our thanks to:
University of Missouri
Learning to love science. As a producer for EarthSky, Lindsay Patterson interviews some of the world's most fascinating scientists. Through EarthSky, her work content is syndicated on some of the world's top media websites, including USAToday.com and Reuters.com. Patterson is also charged with helping to stay in steady communication with the thousands of scientists who contribute to EarthSky's work of making the voice of science heard in a noisy world. She graduated from Colorado College with a degree in creative writing, and a keen interest in all forms of journalism and media.