Teamwork Key To Humanity's Success, Scientists Claim
March 4, 2012

Teamwork Key To Humanity’s Success, Scientists Claim

Researchers from France, the UK, and the US believe they have discovered why mankind emerged as the planet's dominant species, and surprisingly, it isn't because of superior intellect.

Rather, according to the AFP's Kerry Sheridan (AFP), it was "the ability to share knowledge and learn from each other" that likely gave humans the edge over chimpanzees or other mammal species, investigators from the University of St. Andrews, the University of Durham, the University of Texas, and University of Strasbourg -- who published their findings in the journal Science Friday -- have said.

Lead researcher Dr. Lewis Dean and a team of biologists and psychologists conducted a series of challenges in which they had preschool age children face off with capuchin monkeys and chimps, Rob Waugh of the Daily Mail reported. Sheridan said that both groups were faced with the task of obtaining treats out of a three-step puzzle box, and that the kids were far more successful than their animal counterparts because they worked together.

According to the AFP report, only one chimp had reached the third stage of the puzzle box after a period of 30 hours, and none of the capuchins had achieved that level of success after 53 hours. However, five of the eight groups of three- to four-year-old children had reached stage three after just two and a half hours.

At each stage, both the humans and the primates received increasingly attractive awards for their success, New York Times writer Sindya N. Bhanoo said in a Thursday article. For the chimps and capuchins, it was fruit, while for the kids, it was stickers.

Not only would the children help each other solve the puzzles, but St. Andrews University Biology Professor Kevin Laland, one of the study's authors, said that they even witnessed youngsters sharing their stickers with others in order to help motivate them.

"The children taught one another how to beat the puzzles, offered advice and shared the rewards," Waugh wrote. "It gave them a crucial advantage over the monkeys -- and may offer an insight into why the human race triumphed over other animals“¦ The research suggests that working as a team and sharing rewards is rare in nature but a key characteristic of humans."

"Humans can fashion ever more efficient, complex and diverse solutions to life´s challenges, building on the knowledge and technology of previous generations. However, other animals, despite being able to learn from one another, never seem to build on that knowledge," Dean said in a statement. "Our study proves that it is our social skills and, in particular, the human ability to cooperate that explains our successes and achievements in a fast-moving technological age."

In addition to Dean and Laland others involved with the study included Durham University anthropologist Dr Rachel Kendal, as well as University of Texas Professor Steven Schapiro and University of Strasbourg Professor Bernard Thierry, both identified as "leading experts on chimpanzee and capuchin behavior" in a March 1 press release from St. Andrews University.


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