“The nature-nurture debate represents one of the fundamental questions in the field of psychology: Is human behavior wired into our genes or are we shaped by our learning histories and situational pressures? In recent years advances in evolutionary theories, genomics, and neuroscience have focused considerable attention on ‘nature.’ In lucid and accessible prose, Arthur Staats makes the case for ‘nurture,’ arguing that human uniqueness derives from our capacity to learn. Not everyone will agree with Professor Staats’s conclusions, but all will find that his book represents a significant and compelling contribution to a critical debate.”
—Peter Salovey, Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, Yale University
"Dr. Staats has thrown out a challenge to the currently fashionable biological and genetic determinism; rather our breathtaking capacity to learn is placed front and center in the understanding of human nature in his forcefully argued account."
—Frank Farley, PhD, L. H. Carnell Professor, Temple University, Philadelphia
Former president, American Psychological Association
Former president, American Educational Research Association
What makes us human? In recent decades, researchers have focused on innate tendencies and inherited traits as explanations for human behavior, especially in light of human genome research. Renowned psychologist Arthur W. Staats thinks this trend is misleading. As he shows in great detail in this engaging, highly informative book, what makes our species unique is our marvelous ability to learn, an ability that no other primate possesses. Staats argues that the immensity of human learning has not been understood.
The author notes that evolution has endowed us with extremely versatile bodies and a brain of one hundred billion neurons, making us especially suited for a wide range of sophisticated learning. Already in childhood, human beings begin learning complex repertoires—language, sports, value systems, music, science, rules of behavior, and many other aspects of culture. These repertoires build on one another in special ways, and our brains develop in response to the learning experiences we receive from those around us and from what we read and hear and see. When humans gather in society, the cumulative effect of building learning upon learning is enormous.
Staats presents a new way of understanding humanness—in human evolution, in the behavioral nature of the human body, in child development, in personality, and in abnormal behavior—a unified conception that provides new ways of solving human problems and lays the foundations for new areas of science.
FURTHER PRAISE FOR THE MARVELOUS LEARNING ANIMAL:
"In this exciting book, Staats challenges the biological focus that has come to dominate the study of human behavior and makes a compelling case for the central role of humankind’s inimitable learning ability in making us the unique species we have become. The importance of this insight cannot be overestimated. It creates the basis for a new paradigm, providing a new way of conceptualizing human nature and a framework for uniting many disparate fields of study and applications of scientific knowledge with real-world social and behavioral problems. The implications for the future development of the science of human nature are profound."
—Karl Minke, associate professor (retired), Department of Psychology
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Shipping Weight: 2lbs
Arthur W. Staats (Honolulu, HI) is professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is internationally known as an innovator and is the inventor of time-out for use with children and the token-reward system (token economy). In 2006, Child magazine recognized him as one of “20 People Who Changed Childhood.” He is the author of six books, more than fifty chapters, and over eighty journal articles, among other publications.