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How Children Invented HumanityThe Role of Development in Human Evolution$
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David F. Bjorklund

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190066864

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190066864.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 June 2021

Changeable Children

Changeable Children

Evolved Plasticity and Development

Chapter:
(p.32) 2 Changeable Children
Source:
How Children Invented Humanity
Author(s):

David F. Bjorklund

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190066864.003.0002

Plasticity is an evolved feature of Homo sapiens and is greatest early in development. Plasticity permits children to adjust to diverse environments and still grow up to be productive members of their society. This can be seen from the variety of rearing environments found in cultures around the world, from the child-adoring hunter-gatherers to those that view children as drains on resources. Plasticity is not infinite, however, but declines with age. Natural selection has provided children with sensitivity to early environments and the plasticity to entrain their development in adaptive ways, as explained by life history theory. Recent advances have provided important evidence for the proximal causes of changes in behavior as a result of experience—epigenetics, how genes are expressed in different contexts. We can now begin to understand plasticity at the level of the gene, and this has implications for understanding all forms of human functioning.

Keywords:   plasticity, WEIRD societies, neontocracies, gerontocracies, life history theory, naturalistic fallacy, epigenetics, DNA methylation

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