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Being Copycats Might Be Key to Being Human

Connor Wood: What could account for our species’ incredible evolutionary successes? One obvious answer is our big brains. It could be that our raw intelligence gave us an unprecedented ability to think outside the box, innovating solutions to gnarly problems as people migrated across the globe. Think of “The Martian,” where Matt Damon, trapped alone in a research station on Mars, heroically “sciences” his way out of certain death. But a growing number of cognitive scientists and anthropologists are rejecting that explanation. These researchers think that, rather than making our living as innovators, human beings survive and thrive precisely because we don’t think for ourselves. Instead, people cope with challenging climates and ecological contexts by carefully copying others — especially those we respect.

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