Introducing my “Primates Anonymous” category

Hi, I’m Kent, and I’m a primate.

Underneath the neocortex — the outer “layer” of the brain — lies two primitive brain areas that have largely determined the behavior of all descendants of the ocean-dwelling animals that eventually yielded fish, reptiles, amphibians, dinosaurs (including today’s birds), and … mammals. The earliest of these is often called the ‘midbrain’, and is responsible for largely automatic behaviors that characterize fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Humans are strongly influenced by this area, but we don’t typically think of it as defining who we really are.

The second area is newer, and is characteristic of mammals. It guides more sophisticated responses to the environment, including social behaviors. Emotions are among the forces wielded by this area known as the ‘limbic system’. THIS area is the focus for the Primates Anonymous category. Primates are the ones most resembling humans — monkeys, lemurs, marmosets, apes, and such. The reason they resemble us is that WE are primates, too.

Like it or not, I think it’s fair to say that the behaviors of most humans over their lifetimes are more influenced by the limbic system than by our vaunted neocortex.

The take-home message stressed here is that in order to truly understand ourselves, we need to recognize, acknowledge, and come to terms with our primatehood. It’s often hard to do this, because the idea may seem somehow demeaning. Some of us need a little help and encouragement….

Welcome to Primates Anonymous!

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~ by supplementally on June 4, 2012.

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