The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind, is a new book by anthropologist and neuroscientist Melvin Konner, which takes an in-depth look at human development and evolution.

The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind, is a new book by anthropologist and neuroscientist Melvin Konner, which takes an in-depth look at human development and evolution. Focusing heavily on childhood development, Konner examines how kids grow and change through social interactions and play.

The Atlantic reports:

Konner is especially interested in play, which is not unique to humans and, indeed, seems to have been present, like the mother-offspring bond, from the dawn of mammals. The smartest mammals are the most playful, so these traits have apparently evolved together. Play, Konner says, “combining as it does great energy expenditure and risk with apparent pointlessness, is a central paradox of evolutionary biology.” It seems to have multiple functions—exercise, learning, sharpening skills—and the positive emotions it invokes may be an adaptation that encourages us to try new things and learn with more flexibility. In fact, it may be the primary means nature has found to develop our brains.

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