Science Says Toddlers Are Smarter Than Apes, Barely

4 years old girl pushing boy away
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Having two children pulled out of my uterus seemed barbaric, but I kissed their goopy heads all the same. Once they were clean, sleeping, and smelling of milk and the doctors had put me back together again, I thought the barbarity was over and that we were on our way to becoming civilized. Silly me.

I’ve just spent the last three years trying to make something human out of these two. As twins go, they could be a species unto themselves. They’ve got their own language, manner of dress, favorite haunts, feeding times, and nocturnal habits. They even groom each other if a particularly enticing booger is stuck in the other’s hair. However, it’s not the twin thing that sets them apart from the rest of humanity, it’s the toddler thing. Toddlerhood is the jumping-off point for children as they begin to use reason, even as it disables our own.

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Any parent of a toddler becomes a sociologist for a time, if only to ask: what am I doing here and how do we all get out alive? In his book “A Natural History of Human Thinking,” psychologist Michael Tomasello argues that children in this early stage of cognition finally begin to deviate from their natural similarities with the chimpanzees, meaning less poop throwing and more conversing. In early infancy,…

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