poniedziałek, 18 maja 2015

Human mind - magic mind

To really understand the exeptional quality of the creatures we are it seems indispensable to peer at the complex mechanism of the work of our human minds. It may seem unexpected but in the meantime we will expose what actually the Shakespeare's genius consists on (among others, obviously).

Let's try to resolve a simple riddle we could give to any child. We need to viualise such situation:
Sally and Ann are two dolls. Sally has a ball. She puts the ball under the cushion on the armchair. Then she leaves the room. While she's not there, Ann grabs the ball and she hides it in the box. That's when Sally comes back. According to Sally's knowledge, where is the ball?

Most of the children at the age of 4 or less might answer that Sally thinks that the ball is in the box. Why is that? Simply because kids are not capable to set their knowledge apart from the others' one until they reach the age of 4. It means that they literally can't understand that Sally might think in any other way than they do.
These who have already reached the age of 4,5 and more, might answer correctly - they have acquired something we call Theory of Mind. These children already know that other people have their own minds and that they can think in a totally different way. But this is only a second stage of the Theory of Mind. To know that someone is thinking about something.
Us, humans, can reach the fifth or, according to some researches, even sixth stage. You can verify at which stage you are by reading such story:
Peter believes [1] that Jane thinks [2] that Sally wants [3] Peter to suppose [4] that Jane has a plan [5] to convince Sally [6] that the ball is under the cushion. These are six different assumptions which can make you feel dizzy - as you can sometimes feel when reading Shakespear: his stories exeptionally frequently include such complex and based on all of the 6 stages phrases.
Do you have any guess what the acquirement of the Theory of Mind could be useful for?
How about...lying?
Next time, we will see how our relatives make use of this ability. That's right - it seems that we are not the only ones. But we are probably the only ones to reach more than two stages.

poniedziałek, 4 maja 2015

Down on the ground - and what next?

So, we can already imagine how it happened that our simian ancestors 'jumped' off the trees and started to develop totally new competences such as bipedalism (walking on two legs). In fact, we left behind not only the family of monkeys eating fruits and having tails but also our 'human-shaped' cousins: gorilla, orangutan, chimp. But, what next? What on earth were we supposed to do among the environment of savana being - finally - hominids?
What definately should be said is that not only one specie of hominids lived in one time or even in one place on Earth: several species could coexist in one area, the best example of which is the alleged coexistance of Anatomically Modern Humans and Neanderthals who probably weren't our direct ancestors. Moreover, they are supposed to have been 'exterminated' by Anatomically Modern Humans after merely 10 thousands years. Indeed, it seems that we dominated Earth.
But in today's post we're going to meet the one that is said to be our first relative. So, today's charming creature: Ardipithecus ramidus.

This is an exeptional creature in so far as it associated both: anthropoid and animal features. It (I guess it's too early to call it he) was probably bipedal (althought it couldn't walk or run for long distances) but in the same time it was a fruit eater. It lived about 4.4 million years ago and believe it or not but the brain of this direct ancestor of ours was smaller than the one of modern chimpanzee or bonobo.
Fortunately, it's size increased about 4 times - from 300/350 cubic centimeters to the present 1200!

Who was next to lead us evolutionally to what we are today?

czwartek, 19 marca 2015

We went down the trees, that’s for sure – East Side Story

Meet our great simian cousins: the gorilla, the orangutan and finally the chimpanzee with the bonobo which is our closest relative. These are the four anthropoid apes still living in our motherland, Africa. Have you ever wondered what do we actually have in common with our wonderful family of Great Apes (who are more and more frequently said to be hominids)? Since we used to live together and looked pretty alike, why do we now differ so much one from another?

That’s more or less (rather less) how the whole thing happened:
The branch of anthropoid apes is said to have emerged about 13-14 million years ago. After series of climatic changes, which made nature favour other apes and primates who were better adapted to digest the unripe fruit, our disqualified ancestors ‘decided’ to go down the trees and try out some other lifestyle. But then, somehow, we got - literally – separated from our dear cousins. What divided us was the geological force that ripped off the East Africa from the rest of the continent and created the East Africa’s Great Rift Valley. So, the ancestors of our cousins were left on the west side among the tropical humid forests and ours continued life on the east side, on the savannas where our human minds truly started to evolve into what they are today.

Actually, the scientific researches show that our brilliant minds (we tend to be so proud of) remain the savanna ones more than we suppose.
Today's charming creature in the photo: little orangutan. Somehow familiar...

poniedziałek, 9 marca 2015

Humankind, a curious sort

Specifically huge brains, bipedalism, complex mental structures, inquisitiveness, readiness for dying a glorious death, religions, creativity - these are traits that distinguish humans and many of their ancestors from a whole enormously diverse range of other animals. As beinig who we are doesn't seem to be enough for such a curious and odd genre, we constantly search for answers to the multiplicity of questions, which led us to create an approximate image of becoming humans. Aren't you curious?
Hopefully you'll find here some of the answers to your own questions - as you belong to the family of curious hominids, you must have some.

The charming creature you can see in the picture is the bonobo, an anthropoid ape, our closest - and endangered - relative.