Gopnik, A., Frankenhuis, W. E., & Tomasello, M. (2020). Introduction to special issue: “Life history and learning: how childhood, caregiving and old age shape cognition and culture in humans and other animals.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 375(1803). doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0489
This special issue focuses on the relationship between life history and learning, especially during human evolution. ‘Life history’ refers to the developmental programme of an organism, including its period of immaturity, reproductive rate and timing, caregiving investment and longevity. Across many species an extended childhood and high caregiving investment appear to be correlated with particular kinds of plasticity and learning. Human life history is particularly distinctive; humans evolved an exceptionally long childhood and old age, and an unusually high level of caregiving investment, at the same time that they evolved distinctive capacities for cognition and culture. The contributors explore the relations between life history, plasticity and learning across a wide range of methods and populations, including theoretical and empirical work in biology, anthropology and developmental psychology. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Life history and learning: how childhood, caregiving and old age shape cognition and culture in humans and other animals’.