The ontogenetic origins of human cooperation

Emily Wyman and Michael Tomasello

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 The ontogenetic origins of human cooperation

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This article suggests that the ontogenesis of shared intentionality depends on the developmentally primitive phenomenon of ‘joint attention’. This is the ability of the infant to understand that they and other individuals can attend to the same object and each other's attention simultaneously and provides a shared, interpersonal frame in which young infants can share experience with others. This article compares the skills and motivations involved in shared intentionality between humans and chimpanzees. It also emphasises a marked difference in their joint attention abilities. It suggests that this may explain various differences in social-cognitive skills between the two species, and proposes that the phylogenesis of joint attention may account for the evolution of complex forms of cooperation and uniquely human cultural practices.

Keywords: ontogenesis; shared intentionality; joint attention; humans; chimpanzees; phylogenesis; evolution; cooperation

Article.  7265 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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