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How humans (maybe) domesticated themselves

Tameness may have been selected for in our own species, researchers suspect

12:00pm, July 6, 2017
human skull and Neandertal skull

TO BE OR NOT TO BE TAME  In the last 200,000 years, humans may have weeded out members of the species that displayed more aggressive traits. Researchers point to differences between human (left) and Neandertal skulls that indicate tameness. 

Long before humans domesticated other animals, we may have domesticated ourselves.

Over many generations, some scientists propose, humans selected among themselves for tameness. This process resulted in genetic changes, several recent studies suggest, that have shaped people in ways similar to other domesticated species.

Tameness, says evolutionary biologist and primatologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, may boil down to a reduction in reactive aggression — the fly-off-the-handle temperament that makes an animal bare its teeth at the slightest challenge. In this sense, he says, humans are fairly tame. We might show great capacity for premeditated aggression, but we don’t attack every stranger we encounter.

Sometime in the last 200,000 years, humans began weeding out people with an overdose of reactive aggression, Wrangham suggests. Increasingly complex social skills would

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