Our ancient ancestors were probably not so different from us, according to evolutionary theorists. The groups are much smaller – perhaps just a few dozen people – and the advances that would come with the evolution of culture had not yet brought modern technology, but the fundamental emotions and behavioral impulses were remarkably like our own.

The tendency to imitate others makes social learning possible, and is evidenced at the neural level by mirror neurons in the brain that fire when we see someone else’s motor behavior, as well as when we ourselves are behaving in the same way. Psychological characteristics such as these do not need to be learned, and they influence us without our conscious awareness.

  • If an ancient human teenager were brought to our current culture (maybe by a time travel device) and raised with a contemporary family, how well would he or she fit in?
  • What do you imagine would be their first challenges?
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