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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: 05 August 2021

The Adaptive Value of Immaturity (or The Benefits of Being Young at Heart)

The Adaptive Value of Immaturity (or The Benefits of Being Young at Heart)

(p.123) 5 The Adaptive Value of Immaturity (or The Benefits of Being Young at Heart)
How Children Invented Humanity

David F. Bjorklund

Oxford University Press

There are many aspects of young children’s thinking that are immature on the surface but have adaptive value for the young learner, a form of cognitive neoteny. These include young children’s self-centered, or egocentric, perspective; inefficient aspects of memory; tendencies to copy all relevant and irrelevant actions of adult models (overimitation); tendencies to overestimate their abilities; and strong propensity to play. Also included are special abilities to learn, and even create, language, due, in part, to aspects of immature cognition. Ancient human adults retained many youthful characteristics including behavioral plasticity, curiosity, play, imagination, and optimism. These characteristics, coupled with enhanced reasoning and executive function, have led to advances in material and intellectual culture far surpassing anything achieved by other species and to the evolution of the modern human mind.

Keywords:   Kindchenschema (or baby schema), cognitive neoteny, pidgins, creoles, Nicaraguan Sign Language, physical play, object play, pretend play, counterfactual thinking

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