Humans are a Social Species

Many species live in social groups and interaction within those groups is well-known. In humans, however, social life takes on a level of complexity and sophistication that far exceeds what is observed in other social species. Michael Gazzaniga (2008), a noted neuroscientist who has studied human brains for decades, concluded “the shift to becoming highly social is what the human is all about,” (emphasis in the original) and he continues, “our higher intellectual skills arose as an adaptation to our newly evolved social needs” (111-2). He argued that, in natural environments where humans first lived, there was strong competition from other species for the resources needed by humans and there were strong predatory stresses on humans. In this environment, individual humans gained both survival and reproductive advantage by forming mutually supportive social groups. In these groups, humans overcame the physical limitations of being “the weakest ape,” which is the term used by archaeologist Timothy Taylor (2010) to describe humans. There were more eyes to watch for predators, more eyes and hands to find and gather food, more hands to help defend against threats. Scholars have concluded that each individual benefits more from being a part of a social group than it costs to belong to a social group.


Gazzaniga, Michael. 2008. Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique. New York: Ecco.