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Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding

Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding

by Sarah Blaffer HrdySarah Blaffer Hrdy
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Somewhere in Africa, more than a million years ago, a line of apes began to rear their young differently than their Great Ape ancestors. From this new form of care came new ways of engaging and understanding each other. How such singular human capacities evolved, and how they have kept us alive for thousands of generations, is the mystery revealed in this bold and wide-ranging new vision of human emotional evolution.

Mothers and Others finds the key in the primatologically unique length of human childhood. If the young were to survive in a world of scarce food, they needed to be cared for, not only by their mothers but also by siblings, aunts, fathers, friends—and, with any luck, grandmothers. Out of this complicated and contingent form of childrearing, Sarah Hrdy argues, came the human capacity for understanding others. Mothers and others teach us who will care, and who will not.

From its opening vision of “apes on a plane”; to descriptions of baby care among marmosets, chimpanzees, wolves, and lions; to explanations about why men in hunter-gatherer societies hunt together, Mothers and Others is compellingly readable. But it is also an intricately knit argument that ever since the Pleistocene, it has taken a village to raise children—and how that gave our ancient ancestors the first push on the path toward becoming emotionally modern human beings.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674060326
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/15/2011
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 217,699
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis.

Table of Contents

  1. Apes on a Plane
  2. Why Us and Not Them?
  3. Why It Takes a Village
  4. Novel Developments
  5. Will the Real Pleistocene Family Please Step Forward?
  6. Meet the Alloparents
  7. Babies as Sensory Traps
  8. Grandmothers among Others
  9. Childhood and the Descent of Man

  • Notes
  • References
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

What People are Saying About This

E. O. Wilson

As was the case for her earlier classic, Mother Nature, Sarah Hrdy's Mothers and Others is a brilliant work on a profoundly important subject. The leading scientific authority on motherhood has come through again.

Marc Hauser

In the study of mothering, Sarah Hrdy has no peer. In Mothers and Others, we are treated to Hrdy's infectious writing, taking the reader on a tour of our evolved history as a cooperatively parenting species. The ideas are big, bold, and brain-bending.
Marc Hauser, author of Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong

Melvin Konner

Boldly conceived and beautifully written, Mothers and Others makes a strong case that we humans are (or should be) cooperative breeders. It is an indispensable contribution to the debate about how and why we came to be the most successful primate of them all.
Melvin Konner, author of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit

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