How to Think Like a Neandertal, by Thomas Wynn and Frederick L Coolidge

Review published on April 9, 2012. Reviewed by John Redfearn

Psychology professors at the University of Colorado dream of 8-foot-tall robot rabbits with antennae. Neandertals didn’t. They dreamed of falling out of trees or being chased by predators or hungry neighbours.

Would you recognize a Neandertal if you saw one? Maybe. Imagine someone who looks like a stereotypical Eastern European weightlifter, short, heavily muscled, young, superbly fit, an immensely strong athlete. The men, people like Shanidar 1, were like that too except they would have healing or healed-up upper-body and arm injuries. They might even be crippled. Even so their legs would both be undamaged and show no sign of past injury. You wouldn’t want to start a staring match with them.

Have you ever wanted to tell someone to stop moaning about a job and just get on with it? You’d probably never have that problem with a Neandertal. They were stoical, methodical and tended to do the same things the same way every time. They didn’t like change and rarely ever invented anything new. They just got on with doing the same old things the same old way, just like all their ancestors had.

I think, apart from their body shape, IT folk fit the bill too. Neandertals were xenophobic, uncomfortable with groups of more than a few close relatives or associates, didn’t say much and had little idea of diplomacy. They were gullible, certain to fall for con-men and ‘I’m Dr Thieving-Trickster contacting you about a legacy and if you just send me your bank details …’  and so on. And neither Neandertals nor IT staff are paranoid. Neantertal’s brains weren’t capable of paranoia, and everyone really is out to get the IT folk.

Neandertals were deeply caring and loving carnivorous cannibals with little sense of humour, who were susceptible to schizophrenia, who half-buried their dead and promptly forgot all about them and who took on just the biggest, baddest and toughest of all the game animals around them. They would, apparently, make great soldiers.

How do Thomas Wynn, Frederick L Coolidge and his robot rabbit know all this?

Through years of archaeology, psychology, anatomical and medical forensics, painstaking research, thought experiments and observation of animal, human and student behaviours.

Now go read this brilliant book.

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