Big Picture: What is uniquely human?

Download PDF for Photo by Eiko Fried. Send your ‘Big picture’ ideas to [email protected]

A little boy looks into a mirror, and at the same time into the remote past. What is uniquely human? What sets us apart from our closest relatives, the great apes? A concept of the self maybe? The vast range of emotions we can experience, or the astounding cognitive capacities we are equipped with?  

The photographer, Eiko Fried, is a PhD candidate at the Cluster Languages of Emotion at Freie Universität Berlin. ‘The focus of the labgroup I am situated in – mostly primatologists and psychologists – is trying to figure out what is uniquely human by studying cognition, theory of mind, emotion, and communication in human and nonhuman primates,’ he tells us. ‘The photograph reflects on potential differences, but also the many similarities between us and our closest relatives – and depicts the fundamental barrier that makes it so tremendously difficult to understand the mental states of others.’

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