Primitive Normativity in Children and Other Apes
Primitive normativity can be understood as sensitivity to the way things are done around here, or to the appropriateness of different kinds of actions. Children show this sort of primitive normativity at an early age, and there is evidence that other ape species demonstrate it as well. How does primitive normativity serve those who have it? I argue for two interrelated effects. First, sensitivity to normativity undergirds the ability to identify appropriate models to learn from, which (contrary to the theory of natural pedagogy) is a key part of children’s early learning. Second, sensitivity to normativity can lead individuals to seek explanations for norm violations, which in turn can lead to the development of mindreading skills (contrary to familiar claims that the evolutionary function of our mindreading ability is for making better predictions). Both consequences further serve to promote culture and in-group identification. My claim about the effects of primitive normativity is supported by research on children and great apes (chimpanzees and orangutans).
Friday, September 20th, 2013