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Roots of Human Behavior

Roots of Human Behavior

Professor Barbara J. King, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary

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Roots of Human Behavior

Course No. 168
Professor Barbara J. King, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
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Course No. 168
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Course Overview

While human behavior is usually studied from the historical perspective of a few hundred years, anthropologists consider deeper causes for the ways we act. In this course, anthropologist Barbara J. King uses her wealth of research experience to open a window of understanding for you into the legacy left by our primate past.

By looking for roots of human behavior in the behavior of monkeys, apes, and human ancestors, you explore such questions as:

  • Are language and technology unique to humans?
  • Have human love and loyalty developed from our primate cousins?
  • Do ways in which human males and females relate to each other come from our primate past?
  • Have we inherited a biological tendency for aggression?

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12 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
Year Released: 2001
  • 1
    The Four Facets of Anthropology
    Anthropology comprises many ways to study humanity, but a biological anthropologist focuses on the evolution of the human, anatomically and behaviorally. We begin with the evolutionary link between humans and other anthropoid primates that was posited by Charles Darwin more than 100 years ago. x
  • 2
    Social Bonds and Family Ties
    The very idea of a "solitary anthropoid" is a contradiction in terms. Monkeys and apes are social animals, whose life experiences are defined by their place as an individual within a group. These arrangements have practical advantages and are emotionally and developmentally meaningful. x
  • 3
    The Journey Away from Mom
    An anthropoid infant's progress to adulthood is one many of us would recognize. Beginning in absolute dependence, the infant adapts to the world through exploration and play. Some will stay "at home" to form the core of their native communities, while others will disperse to find new homes. x
  • 4
    Males and Females—Really So Different?
    Forty years ago the stereotype of males as promiscuous aggressors and females as passive mother figures held sway. Studies of the most recently discovered great ape, the bonobo, changed this uncomplicated dichotomy dramatically. x
  • 5
    Sex and Reproduction
    As with male-female differences, ideas on sex and reproduction have withstood revision in recent years. Variations in behavior across species complicates any conclusions we might draw about a fixed and clearly defined sexual nature in humans. x
  • 6
    Tool Making—Of Hammers and Anvils
    New research shows that great apes engage in spontaneous problem solving and other advanced cognitive behavior in producing tools for grooming and feeding, and even escaping from captivity! A study of orangutans in Sumatra suggests that social tolerance and cooperation play a critical role in this behavior. x
  • 7
    Social Learning and Teaching
    A conundrum faced by any primatologist is determining whether an advanced behavior has been spontaneously invented, learned through a trial-and-error, or acquired through teaching. What is certain is that learning is a dynamic process that is actively pursued, not passively absorbed. x
  • 8
    Culture—What Is It? Who’s Got It?
    No concept other than culture has been more controversial historically. Many great ape communities have developed group-specific behaviors that have survived and been passed on over time, and some of these actions are even thought to show conceptual understanding and convey symbolic meaning. Whether this represents culture depends on your definition of the term. x
  • 9
    Dynamics of Social Communication
    It was once thought that communication in great apes and monkeys was limited to expressions of emotion and states of arousal. But data on predator-specific alarm calls among vervet monkeys in Kenya suggest that anthropoid primates can communicate information to achieve dynamic social coordination. x
  • 10
    Do Great Apes Use Language?
    Great apes raised in an enriched human environment exhibit an expanded range of linguistic skills, showing the equally important roles played by both biological dispositions and the rearing environment. Are our complex languages unique in kind or only in degree? x
  • 11
    Highlights of Human Evolution
    More than four million years ago the hominids emerged, and by 30,000 years ago Homo sapiens had outcompeted and replaced other hominids. Yet despite bipedalism, mastery of fire, and construction of stone tools that render the hominids unique, a surprising number of their behaviors are found in our anthropoid relatives: the monkeys and apes. x
  • 12
    Exploring and Conserving a Legacy
    Anthropoid primates are valuable as creatures in their own right and as a critical lens through which to view ourselves. How, then, should we deal with the forces that imperil them, from medical research to economic development and the deadly bushmeat trade? Dr. Barbara J. King offers a balanced assessment. x

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  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 64-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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CD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 6 CDs
  • 64-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 64-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
  • Glossary

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Your professor

Barbara J. King

About Your Professor

Barbara J. King, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Dr. Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist and Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Douglass College, Rutgers University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Professor King's research interests concern the social communication of the great apes, the closest living relatives to humans. She has studied ape and...
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Reviews

Rated 3.8 out of 5 by 39 reviewers.
Rated 2 out of 5 by Roots of Human Behavior I thought this would be more about humans than apes and monkeys. Not so. Was disappointed to learn that it was mostly animal behavior. Not interested in that even though it may apply somewhat to human behavior. January 29, 2016
Rated 3 out of 5 by An overview of primate behavioral research This is a worthwhile set of lectures, but it is not really about the "roots of human behavior." It is about research in nonhuman primate behavior at the time the lecture was given - specifically, the speaker's research and experience. Unfortunately, it does not say much about why we humans behave as we do. I would have liked to have heard more on male-female interaction, social hierarchies, aggression, cooperation, emotions, and the "roots" of human environmental destructiveness. In the last lecture, she gives an impassioned plea for endangered ape species, a vital concern to be sure. But she offers no insights from behavioral primatology or evolutionary theory into why we tend to destroy other species. Do other species "over-grow" their habitats, wipe out other species, and degrade the ecosystem? Does observation of other primates help us understand ourselves any better? If so how? But the lectures do contain a lot of interesting material, stories, and anecdotes. January 25, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by Made me want more! I really enjoyed listening to Professor King! I'm on a personal quest to better understand human nature and Dr. King studies our closest relatives in the animal kingdom: the primates. She's obviously quite knowledgeable and is really good at explaining concepts and divergent opinions. Since we share common ancestors, learning how anthropoid primates live may shed some light on how our distant ancestors lived and evolved. You'll be surprised by the similarities we share with them. She's done another course which is longer and seems to go deeper: "Biological Anthropology" which I started after finishing this one. January 23, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by Humans are not So Different as we Might Think I'm only now into the third lecture, but I'm sure I'll watch this several times more and will certainly read the recommended texts. Dr. King relates how anthropoids transfer from one group to another on leaving adolescence. Reflecting back on my and my school classmates' experiences, I find that we humans are not all that different. It would seem more often than not that males in our species leave the home territory and venture elsewhere, not only in search of adventure and resources, but in search of mates outside the group. I am finding the parallels within the anthropoid world most interesting and useful. This about the 10th course I've taken from The Great Courses and I highly recommend everyone to check out their offerings. January 20, 2016
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