In addition to our remarkable learning-capacities, linguistic abilities and creativity, another salient species-specific fact about human beings is that the young of our species engage extensively in pretend play in infancy and childhood. From the age of about eighteen months all normal children, in all human cultures, start to do something which (when viewed from an external perspective, at least) appears very odd indeed – they begin to pretend. They engage in imaginary conversations with make-believe characters (talking to a doll; inventing an imaginary companion) and they pretend to be engaging in a wide variety of adult or fictional activities (talking into a banana as if it were a telephone; pretending to cook and eat mud pies; pretending to be a bird or an airplane). The young of no other species of creature on earth behaves like this in natural circumstances – not even the other great apes (although adult hand-reared and language-trained chimps have sometimes been observed to engage in activities which look very much like pretence, at least; see Jolly


Solving the puzzle of human origins
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