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Social Animals

The Human Factor

The Human Factor – Article 15


We– Humans

According to Michael Shermer 2004, the following characteristics  are shared by humans and other social animals, such as primates, dolphins, whales, especially the great apes:

  1. attachment and bonding,
  2. cooperation and mutual aid,
  3. sympathy and empathy,
  4. direct and indirect reciprocity,
  5. altruism and reciprocal altruism,
  6. conflict resolution and peacemaking,
  7. deception and deception detection,
  8. community concern and caring about what others think about you,
  9. awareness of and response to the social rules of the group.  (1)

     Interesting, don’t you think?  I’m still pondering on this information weeks after reading this finding by ethologists, scientists who study animal behavior.

    Funny, the vanity of human beings.  We pretty much think those nine characteristics are unique to humans.  It took study, ethology, of other social animals to discover these characteristics in other animals.  Importantly, the scale for these characteristics in humans far outstrips anything found in other social animals.

Only Humans Send the Children to School

      In the United States, the law requires all children to go to school. In U.S. public schools, schooling usually begins between 4 and 6 and continues to around age 17 to 18. After the first year of kindergarten, there are 12 grades.  (2)

     In North American society, English speaking and written English skills are specifically taught to children for twelve years.  Such a lot of time and effort for acquiring English speech and written communication!   So the question is: Why bother?

     Likely because humans are social animals and have those same those nine characteristics listed before as other social animals.  But unlike other social animals, humans use oral communication or speech, and written language as primary vehicles to express and communicate those characteristics of social animals.

The Critical Reasons for those Nine Characteristics of Social Animals

     Why those nine characteristics?  Social science and ethology of social animals agree that to coexist in groups, those characteristics in individuals greatly contribute to survival and thriving of the group.

     How important is survival and thriving?   According to Dalrymple (2001), Earth is 4.5 billion years old (a billion is 100 million). (3)  Life (the Last Universal Ancestor, LUCA with the genes common to all life today) may be 3.5 billion years old  (Theobold et al, 2010’ Schopf, 2007).  (4) (5).

     Since the beginning of life on Earth, 99% of all species are extinct—that’s 5 billion species. Current visible species range from 10 million to 14 million of which about 1.9 million have been named and 1.6 million documented in a central data base to date, leaving 80% not yet described. (6)

     Heck, 10 to 14 million species sound like a lot of species’ survival.  But not so much when compared to the 99% extinction of visible species on Earth, those 5 billion species.

Next:   The Critical Role of Bonding for Humans– and What the Heck That Has to do with Acquiring Clear English Speech!


  • Shermer, Michael, 2004, The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule  – a book on ethics and evolutionary psychology, Henry Holt and Company
  •  https://usahello.org/education/children/grade-levels/
  • Dalrymple, G. Brent (2001). “The age of the Earth in the twentieth century: a problem (mostly solved”. Special Publications, Geological Society of London. 190 (1): 205-221
  •  Theobald, D. L. (May 2010). “A formal test of the theory of universal common ancestry”. Nature465 (7295): 219–222.
  • Schopf, J. William; Kurdryavtsev, Anatolliy B.; Czaja, Andrew D.; Tripathi, Abhishek B. (5 October 2007). “Evidence of Archean life: Stromatolites and microfossils”.   Precambrian Research.  158 (3-4): 141-155.
  • Stearns, Beverly Peterson; Sterns, S. C.: Stephen C. (200) Watching from the Edge of Extinction.  Yale University Press. p. preface x.

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