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Is there a gap between Homo sapiens and other animals?

Psychologist Thomas Suddendorf has written an interesting book ("The gap" ) about what sets humans apart from other animals.
He distinguishes six domains, the first term is related to features we can find in animals, the second term belongs to Homo sapiens (the sign "/" representing the "gap" ):

  • Communication / language
  • Memory / mental time travel
  • Social reasoning / mind-reading (theory of mind)
  • Physical reasoning (problem solving) / scientific theories (abstract reasoning)
  • Empathy / morality
  • Tradition / cumulative culture

In all six domains we repeatedly find two major features that set us apart:
a.) our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect on different situations
b.) our deep-seated urge to link our scenario-building minds together (joint attention and collective intentionality, according to Michael Tomasello).

It seems to be primarily these two attributes that carried our ancestors across the gap, turning animal communication into open-ended human language, memories into mental time-travel... and so on...

Matias 8 Apr 15

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Vertebrates from birds to chimpanzees display some ability in all of those areas. It seems to be a matter of degree, not the presence or absence of those attributes or skills. And, that is not surprising. After all, we, like they, are the products of evolution.


We're the S-tier animal in the game of life. Humanity is on top of the current meta for a variety of reasons, so it's not unfair to say there is a gap between us and other animals when we're the only ones who propelled ourselves to the fucking moon.


We are the most destructive.


Interesting, but I would argue that we are animals with greater similarity to the animal kingdom than differences.

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