It seems we are not the only ones who murder our fellow species, it is also possible in the Chimps-world! What is so special about that behavior? Earlier it was thought that killings in other species may be triggered by instinct.. but homicide or even wars may be a deliberate act.. which was thought to be possible only amongst the Humans. Well no longer.. we aren’t the only ones who are into this!
Back in 1974, an unusual report from Jane Goodall at the Gombe Stream Wildlife Research Centre in Tanzania caught the public eye. Chimpanzees had committed infanticide and were engaging in war. Not only were they acting in unanticipated ways, chimpanzees were acting like humans. Goodall’s discovery bridged the divide between Homo sapiens and other species.
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In and of itself, similarity between species is no surprise. Scientists have long experimented on animals in place of people; the resulting insights form the backbone of biomedicine and anthropology. We accept that human beings and nonhuman animals share a common ancestry. In biology and psychology, this relationship is the scientific rationale for a system of inference—the process and convention used to draw logical conclusions from observations—that allows humans to benefit from research with animal subjects. As such, it was not Goodall’s discovery of species similarity per se that provoked such curiosity; it was the specific nature of the similarity.
Naked Ape, Hairy Human
The Gombe observations blurred the boundary between animal and human behavior, between nature and human nature. Previously, behaviorists thought that human and animal psychology intersected only in the realm of instinct. Homicide—as opposed to killing for access to territory or a mate—was deliberate, not instinctive. Infanticide and murder were considered exclusive to human beings and outside of nature. Goodall’s findings challenged this received wisdom.
Since then, what we know about ourselves and other species has changed substantially. Many studies have documented in other species the same behaviors that enrich human lives. We now recognize that species other than humans engage in an array of behaviors that bring variety and depth to life: dolphins teach cultural customs to their young, octopi demonstrate diverse personalities, and rats show a sense of humor. Once at odds with the conventions of her discipline, Goodall’s interpretations today are supported by decades of research in neurobiology. They are part of a broad conceptual framework that has coalesced around the idea that psychology, like biology, is conserved among animals.
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