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Close social interaction with others also means a greater opportunity for pathogens and diseases to spread between people. According to a recent article by Collin McCabe, a doctoral student in Harvard's Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, "(l)earning behaviors from others necessarily brings individuals, whether humans or other animals, into close contact with others, and so could drive the spread of socially transmitted diseases such as the flu, while learning through exploration and experimentation could expose individuals to previously unknown pathogens and parasites." But couldn't it be the other way around? As in, is disease a consequence of or a cause for social learning? Find out more by reading the article here: A cost of culture by Peter Reuell

Compared with other areas of knowledge like the social sciences and literature, a Biologist's approach to behavior tends to be, well, rather dry.  You may say our approach is "reductionist," if you are keen on using TOK vocabulary. We approach innate behavior by observing positive photokinesis of pillbugs, which is the reason you squeal when you lift a mossy rock out of your garden on a sunny dry afternoon and are met with a huddle of agitated arthropods. Usually, innate behaviors can be traced to some survival advantage that they garner for the species to which the organism belongs. For the pillbug, whose respiratory system relies on moist and human conditions, positive photokinesis would make sense if there is a correlation between greater movement and finding oneself in a happy humid environment, away from the dreadfully dry environment that would otherwise take their breath away... literally.

While learned behavior are those that are experienced-based and can be modified throughout an organism's lifetime. These behaviors are not inheritable. Learned behavior is more difficult to trace to the survival advantage it provides, unless you are Pavlov's Dog and whether you get your dinner depends on whether you salivate correctly when your experimenter rings his bell.

However, recent developments in cognitive neuroscience suggest that the ability to learn, share knowledge between and across generations may have given brainy species like ourselves an evolutionary edge. Indeed, as vulnerable as we are in the face of nature, Homo sapiens our survival has often relied upon our social nature. We need other people so much that psychologists have identified that pain experienced from being socially excluded shows identical presentation in the brain as does physical pain.

So the closer we are to people around us, the better, right? Well, life, as you should have figured out by now, isn't that simple.  Close social interaction with others also means a greater opportunity for pathogens and diseases to spread between people. According to a recent article by Collin McCabe, a doctoral student in Harvard's Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, "(l)earning behaviors from others necessarily brings individuals, whether humans or other animals, into close contact with others, and so could drive the spread of socially transmitted diseases such as the flu, while learning through exploration and experimentation could expose individuals to previously unknown pathogens and parasites."

But couldn't it be the other way around? As in, is disease a consequence of or a cause for social learning? Find out more by reading the article here: A cost of culture by Peter Reuell

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