Scientific American Frontiers “Chimps R Us”

In "Chimp Minds," Alan Alda describes two different experiments designed to demonstrate chimpanzees' ability to think abstractly. At the Center for Orangutan and Chimpanzee Conservation in Wauchula, FL, psychologist David Bjorklund tests two young chimps for their ability to think abstractly. Bjorklund and his colleagues present the chimps with objects paired up in such a way that tests the animals' expectations. For instance, the chimps are first shown a stuffed blackbird being stroked like a real bird, then a stuffed blackbird being used like a screwdriver. Immediately, the chimps recognize something is "off" about the screwdriver blackbird. The carefully controlled tests eventually trip up six-year-old Noelle, but not Grub, who demonstrates that, by age nine, chimps have a solid concept about the way things should be. 04/12/2001

Watch Chimp Minds on PBS. See more from Scientific American Frontiers.

Web Seminars

Part One: The function of belief and theory of mind

In S. M. Platek, Evolution: This view of life.
EvolutionTVOL. Part One.

Steve talks to Prof David Bjorklund about the interaction of development and evolutionary pressures. They discuss the development, emergence, and possible adaptive function of belief, theory of mind, and executive function. They also discuss the development of the field Evolutionary Developmental Psychology. 10/04/2011

Part Two: The function of belief and theory of mind

In S. M. Platek, Evolution: This view of life.
EvolutionTVOL. Part Two. 10/04/2011

Darwin Meets Piaget: Incorporating Evolutionary Psychology in the Teaching of Developmental Psychology

Evolutionary developmental psychology is the study of the genetic and ecological mechanisms that govern the development of social and cognitive competencies common to all human beings and the epigenetic (gene-environment interactions) processes that adapt these competencies to local conditions. The basic assumptions and domains of this emerging field, as related to human life history and social and cognitive development, are outlined, as are implications for issues of importance in contemporary society. 10/02/2011

The Adaptive Value Of Immaturity

David Bjorklund examines human psychological development from an evolutionary perspective and propose that some aspects of developmental immaturity have been selected for their adaptive value either for individuals at a specific time in development (ontogenetic adaptations) or as preparation for adulthood (deferred adaptations). He reviews research and theory on the possible adaptive role of immaturity in human development that may foster the development of sensory systems, learning/education, and caretaking by adults. 02/24/2011