Primate Infants as Skilled Information Gatherers
An evolutionary perspective on human infancy suggests that the active infant, skilled at information-gathering and -prompting from adults, and at coordinating its behavior with that of adults, has been shaped by millions of years of natural selection. Infant monkeys and apes are skilled in these ways because they have to be; adults rarely donate information to them, although the contexts in which they do are likely to have evolutionary significance. Ecological shifts over time may have "driven" selection for an information-donating primate adult, an experienced social partner who is motivated to guide infant behavior and to coordinate its behavior in structured routines with that of infants.
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Barbara J. King, Ph.D.
Barbara J. King, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, is a behavioral primatologist with an interest in the evolution of communication. She has studied wild baboons in Kenya and captive apes in several zoos. She recently edited a special issue of the journal Language and Communication (Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1994) and her book The Information Continuum: Evolution of Social Information Transfer in Monkeys, Apes, and Hominids (School of American Research Press, Santa Fe) will appear later this year. Address correspondence to Department of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795.