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December 30th, 2009
Web-Exclusive Video: You + Me = We

Over the course of the series, Alan Alda comes to believe that a big part of the human spark is our extreme social nature. In this video, Alan goes for a walk outside the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology with psychologist Mike Tomasello. They chat about one unique aspect of that sociality – what Mike calls “We-ness.” All our shared values that allow us to cooperate and collaborate lend a “we-ness” to the human species that is certainly lacking in our primate relatives.

Can you think of examples of “we-ness” that you experience throughout a normal day?

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  • Nyloc Rek

    Mike and Alan are making us aware of the “natural” human behaviours which we usually aren’t conscious of because they are so deeply part of our nature. We aren’t the only species which connect in this way, however. The big difference is that while our primate cousins groom each other, we share information which can not only enhance our bond, but improves our mutual survivability. Ants and bees do this too, but our special trait is that we keep building and sharing a valuable knowledge-base.

  • kay

    Facinating subject! I love reading pre-history,
    I love archeology! But, all the animals I have had in my life, all the research that has been done, I must disagree with the lack of social
    cooperation among animals and apes. They have
    proven animals communicate, have social structure,
    provide emotional and physical protection to each other, etc.,etc. And JUDY the ape learned sign language…That would be hard for most PEOPLE. Even my chiauhaua, shows emotion and will cry big wet tears when she can’t have something I am eating…like chocolate.

  • Tom Alexander

    We ignore other people all the time in busy places. Dogs are always interested in other dogs. I guess they don’t have the concept of stranger(needing permission to interact)

  • Jim Mauch

    Your comment on sharing knowledge — Isn’t that exactly what caused the human spark. Even though our brain size is three times larger than a chimp’s our cooperative cultural intelligence could be considered almost thousands of times larger than a chimps. Chimps tolerate learning but only we have the insight to teach or share our knowledge with our cultural group. We know that sharing our knowledge gives us a huge advantage in life. Our drive to share this knowledge allowed us to acquire the imagination and symbolism to develop language.

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