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Roots of Human Behavior

Learn how the study of monkeys and apes can help provide a fuller picture of who we are.
Roots of Human Behavior is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 50.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life long learning I've purchased many courses and haven't seen them all yet. I enjoy the courses, rather than watching the mindless prattle on TV in the evenings. I've always enjoyed learning new things and these courses have never disappointed me.
Date published: 2022-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a lot of monkeying around Goo course on primate behaviour. Very little on the connection to Human behaviour. You have to sort of connect the dots yourself
Date published: 2021-09-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very interesting topic I am always interested in how the human brain works and it was interesting to learn how the the apes and chimps are so similar to us. I only wish that this course was also available in my digital library so that I can have access at any time and from any location. The digital library feature adds a ++ to the Great Courses.
Date published: 2021-08-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting course kind of an interesting course to look at the social behaviors of chimps and gorillas and how it relates to human beings. I guess we have more in common than just a common ancestor.
Date published: 2020-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative Instructor was very good & the presentation was exceptional.
Date published: 2020-12-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting but not the best This is only the second TGC I would not recommend. I bought it on sale; 17 years after it was first published. I would not buy it at full price. The course addresses a really important subject. But the course is very limited in its scope compared to the amount of research available today. Professor King acknowledges that the materiel is changing frequently. I think there is useful information in the course for the novice in the subject. Read the other reviews before buying. Obviously some people really liked it at the time they took the course. The usefulness of the course probably depends on the extent of your previous knowledge on the subject.
Date published: 2019-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinaitng and worthwhile In this course, Professor King talks about aspects of biological Anthropology that are apparently very close to her field of expertise – she points out on many occasions aspects that were directly related to her own research. The main method of research is to study various aspects of human behavior, and to investigate if these can somehow be seen in some of our animal relatives. It is often surprising to see that aspects that we usually automatically associate with humans – human innovation as it were – are actually also manifested in Great Apes and sometimes even in various monkey species. The most fascinating aspects for me were animal social and family bonds, social learning, animal cultures. As one goes through the lectures, it becomes apparent that many of these traits which we are used to think of as strictly human really are not, and the timeless question of what makes human special becomes harder and harder to answer. This course was particularly fascinating for me because I am higly interested in Zoology in all of its aspects and this course turned out to be unforeseeably close in content. Professor King is a good presenter. She is clear, structured and interesting. The lectures are strictly academic, however, without any attempt at being entertaining so as to be more palatable to a non-committed audience. This must be taken to into account as some may not like this. As many have mentioned, the course is old and there probably are many corrections and additions to the material. Still, I found the course to be absolutely fascinating, and to provide a good basic understanding of the field. I am quite positive that for the most part the data is still correct and relevant.
Date published: 2018-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Roots of Human Behavior Content is good for someone new to the field of study but is very dated (15 years old). Instructor is very knowledgeable in the field but tends to have a very monotone presentation which is sometimes hard to hold the student's attention.
Date published: 2016-07-10
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While human history is usually studied from the perspective of a few hundred years, anthropologists consider deeper causes for the ways we act. Anthropologist Barbara J. King uses her wealth of research experience to open a window of understanding into the legacy left by our primate past. As you look for the sources of our behavior in that of primates and our human ancestors, you explore a host of intriguing issues ranging from the development of human love and loyalty to the possible biological tendency towards aggression to what behaviors we inherit from our closest living relatives. Ultimately, you'll learn how the study of monkeys and apes can help provide a fuller picture of who we are.


Barbara J. King

Scientific creationism, however, and even the newer doctrine of intelligent design, are fundamentally at odds with the bedrock principles of biological anthropology, and of science itself.


The College of William & Mary

Dr. Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist and Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Douglass College, Rutgers University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Professor King's research interests concern the social communication of the great apes, the closest living relatives to humans. She has studied ape and monkey behavior in Gabon, Kenya, and at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University. The recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, she has published three books on anthropology, including The Information Continuum: Social Information Transfer in Monkeys, Apes, and Hominids. At William and Mary, Professor King has won four teaching awards: The William and Mary Alumni Association Teaching Award, the college's Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education for Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Award, and the designation of University Professor for Teaching Excellence, 1999-2002.

By This Professor

The Four Facets of Anthropology

01: The Four Facets of Anthropology

Anthropology comprises many ways to study humanity, but a biological anthropologist focuses on the evolution of the human, anatomically and behaviorally. We begin with the evolutionary link between humans and other anthropoid primates that was posited by Charles Darwin more than 100 years ago.

32 min
Social Bonds and Family Ties

02: Social Bonds and Family Ties

The very idea of a "solitary anthropoid" is a contradiction in terms. Monkeys and apes are social animals, whose life experiences are defined by their place as an individual within a group. These arrangements have practical advantages and are emotionally and developmentally meaningful.

30 min
The Journey Away from Mom

03: The Journey Away from Mom

An anthropoid infant's progress to adulthood is one many of us would recognize. Beginning in absolute dependence, the infant adapts to the world through exploration and play. Some will stay "at home" to form the core of their native communities, while others will disperse to find new homes.

31 min
Males and Females—Really So Different?

04: Males and Females—Really So Different?

Forty years ago the stereotype of males as promiscuous aggressors and females as passive mother figures held sway. Studies of the most recently discovered great ape, the bonobo, changed this uncomplicated dichotomy dramatically.

31 min
Sex and Reproduction

05: Sex and Reproduction

As with male-female differences, ideas on sex and reproduction have withstood revision in recent years. Variations in behavior across species complicates any conclusions we might draw about a fixed and clearly defined sexual nature in humans.

31 min
Tool Making—Of Hammers and Anvils

06: Tool Making—Of Hammers and Anvils

New research shows that great apes engage in spontaneous problem solving and other advanced cognitive behavior in producing tools for grooming and feeding, and even escaping from captivity! A study of orangutans in Sumatra suggests that social tolerance and cooperation play a critical role in this behavior.

30 min
Social Learning and Teaching

07: Social Learning and Teaching

A conundrum faced by any primatologist is determining whether an advanced behavior has been spontaneously invented, learned through a trial-and-error, or acquired through teaching. What is certain is that learning is a dynamic process that is actively pursued, not passively absorbed.

30 min
Culture—What Is It? Who’s Got It?

08: Culture—What Is It? Who’s Got It?

No concept other than culture has been more controversial historically. Many great ape communities have developed group-specific behaviors that have survived and been passed on over time, and some of these actions are even thought to show conceptual understanding and convey symbolic meaning. Whether this represents culture depends on your definition of the term.

31 min
Dynamics of Social Communication

09: Dynamics of Social Communication

It was once thought that communication in great apes and monkeys was limited to expressions of emotion and states of arousal. But data on predator-specific alarm calls among vervet monkeys in Kenya suggest that anthropoid primates can communicate information to achieve dynamic social coordination.

31 min
Do Great Apes Use Language?

10: Do Great Apes Use Language?

Great apes raised in an enriched human environment exhibit an expanded range of linguistic skills, showing the equally important roles played by both biological dispositions and the rearing environment. Are our complex languages unique in kind or only in degree?

31 min
Highlights of Human Evolution

11: Highlights of Human Evolution

More than four million years ago the hominids emerged, and by 30,000 years ago "Homo sapiens" had outcompeted and replaced other hominids. Yet despite bipedalism, mastery of fire, and construction of stone tools that render the hominids unique, a surprising number of their behaviors are found in our anthropoid relatives: the monkeys and apes.

31 min
Exploring and Conserving a Legacy

12: Exploring and Conserving a Legacy

Anthropoid primates are valuable as creatures in their own right and as a critical lens through which to view ourselves. How, then, should we deal with the forces that imperil them, from medical research to economic development and the deadly bushmeat trade? Dr. Barbara J. King offers a balanced assessment.

31 min