Human Nature

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 28–48 | Cite as

Primate Sociality to Human Cooperation

Why Us and Not Them?
  • Kristen HawkesEmail author


Developmental psychologists identify propensities for social engagement in human infants that are less evident in other apes; Sarah Hrdy links these social propensities to novel features of human childrearing. Unlike other ape mothers, humans can bear a new baby before the previous child is independent because they have help. This help alters maternal trade-offs and so imposes new selection pressures on infants and young children to actively engage their caretakers’ attention and commitment. Such distinctive childrearing is part of our grandmothering life history. While consequences for other cooperative activities must surely follow, the novel rearing environments set up by helpful grandmothering can explain why natural selection escalated preferences and motivations for interactivity in our lineage in the first place, and why, unlike other aspects of infant development, social sensitivities are not delayed in humans compared with genus Pan.


Human evolution Life history Genus Pan Grandmothers Infant development 



I thank especially Nick Blurton Jones and Sarah Hrdy, as well as Ted Coxworth, Steve Beckerman, Karen Kramer, Jim O’Connell, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and good advice.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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