Cooperative activities in young children and chimpanzees

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Development/Milestones: Babies

A study reported in Children Development recently described how children 18-24 months of age and 3 young chimpanzees interacted in 4 cooperative activities with a human adult partner. The children successfully participated in cooperative problem-solving activities and social games, whereas the chimpanzees were uninterested in the social games. As an experimental manipulation, in each task the adult partner stopped participating at a specific point during the activity. All children produced at least one communicative attempt to reengage him, perhaps suggesting that they were trying to reinstate a shared goal. No chimpanzee ever made any communicative attempt to reengage the partner. These results are interpreted as evidence for a uniquely human form of cooperative activity involving shared intentionality that emerges in the second year of life.

This data presents some interesting points. I sometimes tease my kids and tell them that since they act like chimps and monkeys, I am going to send them back to the jungles where they obviously belong. But if the chimpanzees cannot reengage their play partners, I guess I'll have to play with my kids myself.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.