The Interaction Engine: Cuteness selection and the evolution of the interactional base for language
Levinson, S. C.
The Interaction Engine: Cuteness selection and the evolution of the interactional base for language. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 377
(1859): 20210108. doi:10.1098/rstb.2021.0108.
The deep structural diversity of languages suggests that our language capacities are not based on
any single template but rather on an underlying ability and motivation for infants to acquire a
culturally transmitted system. The hypothesis is that this ability has an interactional base that has
discernable precursors in other primates. In this paper I explore a specific evolutionary route for the
most puzzling aspect of this interactional base in humans, namely the development of an empathetic
intentional stance. The route involves a generalization of mother-infant interaction patterns to all
adults via a process (‘ cuteness selection’ ) analogous to, but distinct from, RA Fisher’s runaway
sexual selection. This provides a cornerstone for the carrying capacity for language.
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