Poster at the 13th Conference of the International Society for Human Ethology
5.-10. Aug. 1996, Vienna

Proceedings in:

New Aspects of Human Ethology
Edited by: A. Schmitt, K. Atzwanger, K. Grammer, K. Schäfer
Plenum Press, New York 1997

Abstract (Proceedings)
Hunting or following each other : Origins of mimetic skills?

Merlin Donald (Origins of die modern mind 1991 ) described a phase of mimetic skills in hominid primate development. Taking evolutionary psychology seriously and looking back along the line of vertebrates that has led towards man, several steps in "mimicking" behaviors can be shown. Hunting another animal involves, on the side of the hunter, a sensory part (watching the behavior of the prey) and a motor part ( following the path or trajectory of the prey). Simultaneously, on the side of the prey, behavior of the predator is watched (sensory part), direction and speed of his movements will influence flight movements (motor part). Given in general that, starting with the first fish ancestors, most of all vital object-related behavior was on mobile, animated objects (prey and predator animals, competing animals, partners, other conspecifics), hunting was among the first action tasks in vertebrate phylogeny. Let us look closer into interactive "following" behavior: motor patterns of the one feed directly into sensory patterns of the other thereby steering the motor patterns of the latter, which will in turn feed into sensory patterns of the first. The remaining environment "behaves" in much more predictable ways: physical structures give contrast and support. The coupled, better crossed sensory-motor system between partners of interaction may not only have been the first mimicking-type behavior but represent one of the minimum-essential nervous functions. Brains always develop(ed) together!

Abstract (on Poster)

The German word for mimetic behavior is "Nachmachen" (aping). Humans can store watched behavior and reproduce it at will e.g. pantomime. For animals, true imitation is difficult to show, most animals lack a mobile face and our free arm/hand/finger-system. Hunting is mimetic because the trajectory of one individual's body is made anew by another individuals body with a specific distance and time delay. Hunting is original because locomotion is the most ancient and widespread of all vertebrate behaviors.

Detail (on Poster)
Interdependences between interacting nervous systems

Hunting or following each other is
(1) dyadic (most often)
(2) interactive: sensory and motor patterns of two individuals overlap
(3) intra- or interspecies

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