Learning and play is one of our central themes and covers such a broad range of exciting ideas. However, this piece from The Conversation places it as fundamental to all human development, not merely a child’s learning. Behaviour can be copied and learned, but that’s just imitation. Play, on the other hand, allows for imagination and creation – which is where we find progress.
We all know the scene: a child, wrapped in his or her own imaginary world, fights off aliens while flying through space on a rocket fashioned from an empty box. But could such flights of fancy be critical to humanity as we know it?
I published a paper earlier this week in the Journal of Comparative Psychology where I argue that the emergence of childhood (which I would broadly define as between two and seven years old) as a life stage may have been an important step. Here’s why.
could such flights of fancy be critical to humanity as we know it?
Since the split from our common ancestor, the chimpanzee, seven million years ago, we have colonised more of the planet’s terrestrial habitat than any other species and account for about eight times as much biomass as all other terrestrial vertebrates combined.
Chimpanzees, by contrast, have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Why? What has led to our remarkable success, leaving all other species in our, at times devastating, wake?
There are many answers. But a stand-out candidate is that, unlike other animals, we not only pass on from one generation to the next a vast array of skill and information, but as we do, we define it, reinvent it and make it better.
This is what has become known as ‘cumulative culture‘, and ours is the only species to show it.