PUBlic Professor Series | Dr. Louise Barrett

Supercharged Apes and Supersized Minds: How to Think Like an Animal

Dr. Louise Barrett, Department of Psychology

Seeing ourselves in other animals is a very human thing to do. On the one hand, this is entirely appropriate—we are animals ourselves after all. On the other hand, it can give rise to misleading view of other species if we insist on comparing them to humans, especially as we often consider ourselves to be above the other animals: our large relative brain size, and spectacular ability to invent and use technology, seems to place us at a remove from the rest of the Animal Kingdom. How best, then, to understand what it means to be human, and appreciate our place in Nature?

Louise Barrett has studied the behaviour of wild African primates for the past 25 years, along with studies of human behaviour and ecology. In this talk she offers her perspective on how humans and other species differ, and how to reconcile our animal and cultural natures. Her suggestion is that we need to pay as much attention to bodies as well as brains, and the manner that humans and other animals extend their biological capacities by exploiting the structure of the environment. What makes humans clever may, paradoxically perhaps, be found outside our heads, rather than in them.

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