Evidence that psychology, like biology, is conserved between human and nonhuman species augurs a shake-up for science and society
Back in 1974, an unusual report from Jane Goodall at the Gombe Stream Wildlife Research Centre in Tanzania caught the public eye. Chimpanzees had committed infanticide and were engaging in war. Not only were they acting in unanticipated ways, chimpanzees were acting like humans. Goodall’s discovery bridged the divide between Homo sapiens and other species.
In and of itself, similarity between species is no surprise. Scientists have long experimented on animals in place of people; the resulting insights form the backbone of biomedicine and anthropology. We accept that human beings and nonhuman animals share a common ancestry. In biology and psychology, this relationship is the scientific rationale for a system of inference—the process and convention used to draw logical conclusions from observations—that allows humans to benefit from research with animal subjects. As such, it was not Goodall’s discovery of species similarity per se that provoked such curiosity; it was the specific nature of the similarity.