The work presents a catalog of questions about traits of our behaviour and anatomy. As it is, the same answers are possible for all members of what biologists call ‘Hominini’ – a ‘tribe’ of apes that includes humans, bonobos and chimpanzees. Thus, possible responses do not define differences between these species, challenging the idea that humans are ‘unique’. Instead, the mixture of answers highlights distinctions and similarities between individual members of the Hominini, never mind their species. Our replies hence reveal personal cultural boundaries that we share with some human or non-human apes, but not others. “Differences are of degree, not of kind” (Charles Darwin).
Volker Sommer is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology in the University of London. His research interests focus on the evolution of primate social and sexual behaviour, cognition, rituals, biodiversity conservation, animal rights and evolutionary ethics.
Do you like the taste of sugar? Do you get apprehensive? Is the dental formula for each quadrant of your mouth: 2 incisors, 1 canine, 2 premolars, 3 molars? Can you perform acrobatics? Do you keep tools for future use? Do you have abstract thoughts? Do you use sex toys? (Male) Does your scrotum hang freely? Can you wade in water? (Male) Can you be sure you are the father of your children? Do you pout? Do you anticipate social repercussions for yourself and others? Are you adopted? Are you promiscuous? Does your eye have a bony socket enclosing it? Can you walk on all fours? Are you affectionate? Do you feel compassion? Do you like to watch the sunset? Do you make representational art? Can you walk on two feet? Are you agreeable? Do you form concepts? Does your brain have two halves? Do you bare your teeth as an aggressive gesture? Do you break alliances between people for your own gain? Do you eat roots? Do you have a concept of self? Do you have sex for pleasure? Do you catch colds? Do you make your bed? Do you get angry? Do you have a creative imagination? Do you eat soil? Do you have collarbones? Do you offer an open hand when begging? Do you annoy others? Do you get sad? Can you run? Do you appease others? Do you ever fear the unknown? Can your shoulder rotate 360 degrees? Do you anticipate? Can you stand upright? Do you get coughs? Would you bite as an aggressive / defensive act? Do you have an aversion to things that in the past have scared you? Do you teach others? Might you develop cancer? Do you care for your body? Do you use touch to bond with others? Are you aggressive? Do you play on your own? Have you ever had diarrhoea? Do you communicate with gestures and voice? Do you help others? Are you friendly? Can you scream? Does the colour of your face differ from that of others? Do you resolve conflicts using sex? Do you live cooperatively in a group? Do you have a sense of fairness? Do you solicit sex? Is your face unique? Do you eat your own shit? Do you use toys? Do you get frustrated? Do you stroke others? (Female) Do you orgasm? Do you eat people? Can you generalise? Do you get fungal infections? Do you show your dominance of others by charging at them? Do you use courtship? Are you generous? Do you use hammers? Are your eyes at the front of your face? Do you chuckle? Do you create new rituals? Do you feel joy? Do you bully? Do you use cooperative hunting skills? Do you participate in cultural traditions? Do you help others? Do you scavenge for food? Does your skin have hair on it? Do you help members of other species? Do you enjoy community? Are you hostile? Do you get haemorrhoids? Do you drink urine? Are you hygienic? Do you itch? Do you have heterosexual sex? Do you cry? Is there someone you admired and ‘followed’ in adolescence? Do you have imaginative play? Do you scream during sex? Do you get hiccoughs? Do you drum? Do you have food-related sex? Do you use sex as aggression? Do you have homosexual sex? Do you have friends? Do you throw your shit? Do you understand the relationship between things? Do you sustain eye contact? Do you lack an external tail? Do you hug? Is your group territorial? Are you inventive? Do you eat your vomit? (Female) Can you lactate? Do you suffer mental and physical pain? Do you have ten fingers and ten toes? Do you kiss with an open mouth? Do you feel sympathy for others? Do you get ulcers or sores? Do you use your tongue when you kiss? Do cultural differences cause you to separate from others and join different social groups? Are you tender? Are your toes webbed? Do you eat leaves? Do you form coalitions with your siblings? Are you territorial? Will your hair whiten with age? If you are cut do you lick the wound? Do you have social awareness? Are you tolerant? Do you express rage? Do you use wipes? Is there a Y-shaped groove in your molar teeth? Are you an extrovert? Do you like watching television? Do you facilitate social actions? Do you understand symbols? Is your sleeping area raised off the ground? Do you have a larger brain, relative to your body size, than other mammals? Do you smack your lips? Are you in a social hierarchy? Do you use physical touch to reconcile aggressive incidents? (Male) Do you force people to have sex with you? (Female) Is it unlikely you will raise more than three offspring to full maturity during your lifetime? Do you make a coughing sound to indicate slight annoyance? Do you solve the problems of others? Do you have various strategies to attract a partner? Do you climb trees? Do you make useful tools? Do you experience collective fear? Do you victimise others? Have you ever sucked your thumb? Are you ticklish? Do you have a personality? Do you masturbate? Has maternal deprivation affected your physical development? Do you have a fear of strangers / ‘outsiders’? Do you build shelters? Are you contented? Do you have oral sex? Do you get bored? Do you vary your facial expressions to communicate different messages? Are you curious?
Are your cognitive abilities impaired because you were deprived of social contact during childhood? Do you throw rocks? Do you feel jealousy? Can you use a bottle opener? Do you laugh? (Female) Do you ever yawn or self-groom during sex? As a child did you ever play in a sexual way? Do you prefer to use one hand more than the other? Do you initiate reconciliation after a conflict? Can you get malaria? Do you gather food? Do you live in a community? Do you feel lethargy? Do you whimper? (Male) Are your testicles much larger than those of a gorilla? Do you like fruit? Did you have a long childhood compared to other mammals? Are you opportunistic? (Male) Will you go bald with age? Do you have a sexual interest in children? Do you predict consequences? Do you participate in warfare? (Female) Do you menstruate? Do you demonstrate impulsive tendencies? Do you feel passion? Are you preoccupied with hierarchy and status? (Female) Might you have a miscarriage if pregnant? Do you share food? Do you feel love? Are you rational? Do you eat meat and plants? (Male) Can you make a flicking movement with your erect penis? Do you manipulate others for your own purpose? Do you mind who your partner is? (Female) Do you ovulate? Do you hunt in groups? Are you undependable? Are you violent towards strangers? Do you have opposing thumbs? Do you grunt? Do you have reasoned thoughts? Do you scream when you are attacked? Do you have parasites in or on you? Do you clap your hands? Do you recognise yourself in the mirror? Do you have sex in the ‘missionary’ position (face to face)? Can you get pneumonia? Does your hair bristle / stand on end when you are scared or aroused? Do you seek affectionate physical contact? Are you irrational? Do you use sponges? Can you get polio? Do you imitate others? Do you seek reassurance and attention? (Male) Do you recruit women to be your partners? Can you operate touchscreen computers? Do you see colours? Do you have sex with members of your family? (Male) Do you find unfamiliar females more attractive? Do you have a reduced sense of smell compared to other mammals? Do you voluntarily suppress your voice? Does smell affect your sexual arousal? Did your use of gestures increase throughout childhood? Have you ever played ‘aeroplane’ (supporting a child on top of your feet while lying on your back) ? Are you neurotic? Do you have sex ‘doggy style’ (belly to back)? Did you become sexually mature between 10 and 13 years of age? Do you scratch yourself? Do you use probes? Do you intoxicate yourself (alcohol, drugs, etc.) ? Do you form opportunistic coalitions? Have you ever made someone bear the blame of others? Do you vary your sexual positions? Do you remember things from your past? Do you eat insects? Do you plan in cooperation with others? Are your parenting techniques different from others? Do you get sexually excited? Do you use weapons? Have you bitten a penis off? (Male) Are your erections not always due to sexual arousal? Do you wipe your shit off you? Do you sneeze? Do you use intimidation? Does someone’s personality affect whether they are sexually attractive to you? Do you have spatial memory? Could you learn sign languages? Do you sweat? Do you feel sexual pleasure? Do you invent complex performances to amuse yourself? Are you miserly? Do you tease others? Do you sense changes in temperature? Do you kiss? Do you have sex with more than one partner? Do you make panting noises during sex? (Male) Do you ejaculate? Do you coerce others? Do you deceive others? Are you scared of snakes? Do you shake your fist to express anger? Do you get depressed? Do you resolve others’ conflicts? Would you have adopted your younger siblings if orphaned? Do you dream during sleep? Do you retaliate or seek vengeance? Do you feel desire? (Male) Do you use your erect penis to display? Do you smile? Do you vocally express your pleasure during sex? Do you have temper tantrums? Do you grieve? Do you eat pigs? When you were a child did you have an insatiable appetite for play? Do you express your despair? Do you steal food from others? When you were a child did you learn by observing and imitating? Do you have a good short-term memory? Do you get distressed? Do you play? Would you adopt children? Have you learned actions / skills that were passed to you from previous generations? Do you have a good memory for individuals? Do you dominate others? Can you empathise? Have you ever played ‘rough and tumble’ or ‘king of the mountain’? Is your cognitive ability higher than that of most other mammals? Do you spend a lot of time socialising? Can you do basic maths? Are you excessively particular or demanding? Do you fear? Can you play computer games? Do you pat others on the back? Do you have a lifelong bond with your mother? Did your parents reject you? Are you secretive? Are you absent-minded? Are you trusting? When you need to extend your reach upwards, do you find something to stand on? Can you inhibit your impulses? Are you addicted to any substances? Do you dance? Does your voice sound different to that of others? Have you been weaned?