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Origins of the Human Mind

Kyoto University via edX


The human mind is an evolutionary product, just like the body. However, the mind does not remain in fossil form like bones and teeth. Therefore, to better study and understand our minds their evolutionary origins we need to compare our cognitive features with those of different living primates. This approach is called "Comparative Cognitive Science (CCS)". CCS is a unique combination of Psychology and Primatology. CCS tries to give answers to the fundamental questions such as "what is uniquely human?", "where did it come from?”, "how did we get here?”, and "where do we go?" This intensive course focuses on chimpanzees, the closest relatives of humans.

This course covers selected areas of current research on CCS. We focus on behavioral studies of nonhuman animals, especially chimpanzees. Since the chimpanzee and the human share the latest common ancestor, only about five million years ago, this great ape provides the key to understanding our nature.


Week 1: Introduction to Primate World

  • How Special is the Japanese Monkeys?
  • Animal Culture: Conspicuous Behaviors in Japanese Monkeys and Their Background
  • Why We Have to Study Chimpanzees to Understand Human Unique Nature?

Week 2: Matsuzawa Methodology

  • Synthesizing Lab Work & Field Work
  • Participant Observation
  • Field Observation

Week 3: Imitation and Language

  • Imitation 1: Chimpanzee Nut-cracking
  • Imitation 2: Imitation with an Object
  • Language 1: Recognition and Memory of Number System
  • Language 2: Cognitive Association between Colors and Symbols

Week 4: Stable Supine Posture and Imagination

  • Stable Supine Posture
  • Imagination

Week 5 Green Corridor Project as a Conservation Practice

  • Research Site and Bossou Chimpanzees
  • Threats to Chimps 1: Deforestation
  • Threats to Chimps 2: Poaching
  • Threats to Chimps 3: Contagious Disease
  • Environmental Education

Taught by

Tetsuro Matsuzawa

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5.0 rating, based on 1 reviews

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  • Kristina Šekrst completed this course and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    This is a short course, but a great overview of primates, and especially chimpanzees. You'll the result of decades of work, and learn interesting things on how do chimpanzees think, what do they like to do, how they imitate or learn to count, and learn about how to protect them. The lectures have embedded videos of real-life experiments, and it's great to watch them and learn about them from someone's own experience. All in all, I'm looking forward to a possible sequel.

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