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de Waal

From Ed:

I think de Waal’s work should be read in tandem with that of Steve Suomi, a bioanthropologist specializing in the development of social behavior in rhesus monkeys. Suomi claims that young male rhesus are expelled from their natal tribe at or just before puberty, and exposed to very heavy levels of mortality as nomads, until they succeed in joining a new troop.

Much as college students, these young males cope with this stressful period by using the resources bestowed upon them by nature, nurture, and nature/nurture. The outcomes are not randomly distributed.

The relevant “resources” in Suomi’s picture of the primate world have to do with native “temperament” — response to novel events that are hard to categorize/recognize as appropriately evoking fight or flight v. approach and investigate.
Some are “uptight,” others are “laid back.” The resources also include the individual’s experience of more or less nurturing maternal behavior. Those rhesus males who have the misfortune of being “peer reared” because of maternal neglect, have a repertoire of a- or anti-social behaviors that lengthen the odds against acceptance by a new troop.

Nevertheless, the call of nature (resumption of estrous) does continue to result in maternal behaviors that are much less than “good enough,” with the attendant unfortunate consequences for their male progeny. (What happens to young rhesus females is another story.)

One does not have to be a fan of the elder Huxley to notice that preschool or primary grade teachers encounter similar problems with human children, both male and female. I assume de Waal will have a response to the implication that both social, asocial and anti-social behaviors are part of our phylogenetic heritage.

On a personal note, I happen to be an extremely poor dog trainer. I cannot help but wonder what the lab notes of the geniuses who first domesticated the dog might tell us.


Ed Manier

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