Daily Archives: July 3, 2012

Hard-Wired to Heart Each Other

Archeologists studying Neanderthal remains have discovered many clues that suggest these primitive people were pretty darn nice. It makes sense that our ancient cousins cared about each other. How would an über-social species get along otherwise? Michael Tomasello, a developmental psychologist in Germany, believes that cooperation helped early humans hunt and gather together, and so survive.

Here in the twenty-first century, humans are still born with an urge to help. In his book Why We Cooperate, Dr. Tomasello says that children are naturally inclined to help others. It’s a behaviour seen in every culture, regardless of how early or late parents encourage sharing and other social rules. Even one-year-olds in experiments will help adults by pointing to a lost object.

Right now I’m re-reading Clan of the Cave Bear, that popular eighties novel (that was eventually made into a really bad movie starring Daryl Hannah), and totally absorbed by the author’s rendering of Neanderthal culture and all of its incumbent kindness. I’m not saying I’d want to sleep on furs and eat woolly mammoth fricasee. But it’s neat to know that even the most prehistoric of people had each other’s backs.

Toddler washing a baby in a bathtub.

Benevolent babies: You wash my back, I’ll wash yours.