Gossipy, cliquey, exclusionary — these are some of the traits our human ancestors developed to thrive over the last 6 million years, argues psychology professor William von Hippel in his new book, “The Social Leap” (Harper Wave), out now.
“Nothing is more important to us than our social connections. Nothing was more critical for our ancestors’ survival and reproduction,” von Hippel writes.
Social connection and its middle-school messiness assured our survival — more than harnessing fire or developing opposable thumbs. Von Hippel writes that a series of “social leaps” — or movements forward in the way we connect with our fellow man — made our brains bigger, our connections stronger and our long-term survival certain.
And the real gift to mankind was our bitchiness.The first major social leap happened around 10 million years ago when our chimp ancestors were forced out of the rainforest and into the grasslands, thanks to tectonic shifts in the East African Rift Valley.