Welcome back, friends! Apologies for the brief delay in getting this episode out. We’re now happily back on track and super stoked for what we have coming up—starting with today’s episode.
My guest is Dr. Michael Tomasello, a voraciously interdisciplinary thinker, an incredibly productive scientist, and a pioneer in the systematic comparison of chimpanzee and human capacities. Mike is a Distinguished Professor in the department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University, where also holds appointments in Evolutionary Anthropology, Philosophy, and Linguistics. He is the author of growing list of influential books, including the recent Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny and a new book coming out this fall titled The Evolution of Agency.
In this conversation, Mike and I talk about how he came to study both children and chimpanzees. We discuss the challenges of working with each of these groups—and the challenges of comparing them. We talk about some of the key concepts that have figured prominently in Mike’s work over the years—like joint attention and false belief—and well as some of the concepts he’s been elaborating more recently—including norms, roles, and agency. We also discuss Vygotsky and Piaget; how humans got started down the path toward intense interdependence and cooperation; and what Mike thinks he got wrong earlier in his career.
Lots in here, folks—let’s just get to it. On to my conversation with Dr. Michael Tomasello. Enjoy!