To What Extent Can Humans Be Considered Distinct from Other Animals?

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To what extent can humans be considered distinct from other animals?

What makes humans differ to other animals? Are humans in fact different at all? And if they are what makes them different? There are many different perspectives and viewpoints in research in psychology that helps distinguish whether humans are in fact distinct from other animals. At initial glance it would be argued that there is a distinct difference in the use of language and its interpreted meaning between one human and another this as well as differences in sexual reproduction relationships humans have in comparison to other animals. These two areas will be explored in more detail to show the distinctiveness humans have.

Humans use language everyday to communicate with each other, express how they’re feeling, what their thoughts are and also how they are making sense. Cooper & Kaye (2007) stated that language is in fact one of the most important aspects of being human and arguably our most distinctive and interesting characteristic as a species. However, this doesn’t mean that communication between other animals doesn’t happen but what is it about human language that is clearly distinct from just communication? Harley (1995 as cited in Cooper & Kaye, 2007 pg. 76-77) described human language as ‘associating a finite number of words with particular meanings or concepts, and using finite number of rules to combine those words into a potentially infinite number of sentences’.

Aitchison (1983 as cited in Cooper & Kaye, 2007) considered four main criteria of language design features unique to human language. These were ‘semanticity’ which is how a word reflects aspects of the world. Secondly ‘displacement’ which is the ability to refer to events and items that are not currently perceived. ‘Structure dependence’ which refers to that language is characterised by a series of symbols that don’t look like the given object. Lastly, the fourth main unique criterion is ‘creativity’ allowing...
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