Hauser, Marc D. 1959-
Hauser, Marc D. 1959-
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor, 1992-95, associate professor, 1995-98, professor of psychology, organismic and evolutionary biology, and biological anthropology, 1998—, adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education, 2001—, codirector of the Mind, Brain and Behavior Program, 2003—. Director of the Cognitive Evolution Lab and the Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Harvard University. Honorary lecturer, department of zoology, Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
Animal Behavior Society, Acoustic Society of America, American Primatological Society, Cognitive Neuroscience Society, International Behavioral Ecology Society, International Society for Infant Studies, Neuroethology Society.
National Science Foundation, Young Investigator Award, 1993; Harvard University, fellow at the Center for Ethics, teaching innovation award, 1994, 1997; Guggenheim Fellowship, 2005; postdoctoral fellowships at University of Michigan, Rockefeller University, and University of California-Davis. Received grants from numerous organizations, including the National Science Foundation, Leakey Foundation, McDonnell Foundation, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Harvard University.
The Evolution of Communication, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
(Editor, with Mark Konishi) The Design of Animal Communication, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.
(Editor, with Stanislas Dehaene, Jean-René Duhamel, and Giacomo Rizzolatti) From Monkey Brain to Human Brain, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
(Editor, with Fiery Cushman and Matthew Kamen) People, Property, or Pets?, Purdue University Press (West Lafayette, IN), 2006.
Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, Ecco (New York, NY), 2006.
Series editor, 1996-2003, Evolutionary Foundations of Human Behavior, Aldine de Gruyter Press (Hawthorne, NY). Member of various editorial boards for scholarly journals, including Social Neuroscience, Language Learning and Development, Cognition, Animal Cognition, and Evolutionary Psychology.
Marc D. Hauser, professor of psychology, organismic and evolutionary biology, and biological anthropology at Harvard University, conducts research that "sits at the interface between evolutionary biology and cognitive neuroscience and is aimed at understanding the processes and consequences of cognitive evolution," as is written in his faculty profile for the Harvard University Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department Web site. In addition to academic writings, Hauser has authored several books aimed at making new ideas in evolutionary biology accessible to the general public.
Hauser gained critical renown for his first book, The Evolution of Communication, which has become known as a milestone in the field. The book draws on new research and theories in physics, chemistry, psychology, linguistics, neurobiology, behavior, and evolutionary science to present current views on how language and other communication systems have developed in humans and animals. Hauser argues that the multidisciplinary approach he offers in The Evolution of Communication provides a useful means of analyzing data; he further argues that an evolutionary continuum exists between animal communication and human language. In a review for Evolution, contributor Michael J. Ryan observed that, while no single book on such a broad subject can be expected to be definitive, Hauser's book "encompasses both the subject's richness and its subtleties, and … is exquisitely clear in its presentation. This work can serve as an undergraduate text, an introduction to the novice researcher and a reminder to others of us of the initial excitement that drew us to this area of study." In a review of the book for Nature, Derek Bickerton deemed The Evolution of Communication an "indispensable" work.
In Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think, Hauser discusses animal cognition, a topic that Wilson Quarterly contributor Elizabeth Marshall Thomas described as "rich and vital." Criticizing researchers who have drawn strong analogies between human thought and animal behavior, Hauser argues that animals do not possess self-awareness and thus cannot be said to feel, think, or behave in empathetic or moral ways. Nevertheless, he adds that animals do communicate and behave in ways that demonstrate cognition. Citing numerous examples of cognitive feats, such as the crow's ability to make and modify tools, he writes that animals' successful adaptation to their particular environments can demonstrate their cognitive processes. While there may not be a direct analogy between human and animal intelligence, Hauser concludes, "We share the planet with thinking animals. Each species, with its uniquely sculpted mind, endowed by nature and shaped by evolution, is capable of meeting the most fundamental challenges that the physical and psychological world presents. Although the human mind leaves a characteristically different imprint on the planet, we are certainly not alone in this process."
While Thomas praised Hauser's thorough research, she stated that Wild Minds does not fully illuminate the subject matter for nonexpert readers. New York Times Book Review critic George Page, on the other hand, observed that Hauser's arguments "are familiar to anyone with a superficial knowledge of the subject." Page added, though, that the title "promises more than the book delivers." Wild Minds, Page commented, is not a definitive book about animal cognition; nevertheless, it is "a welcome addition to the growing body of work about the animal mind, a taboo subject for science as recently as 30 years ago." Charles T. Snowdon, in a review for Natural History, stated that the book does not discuss the evolution of human cognition in-depth, but observed that the book "provides a clear and critical survey of mental capacities in animals and introduces us to new experimental methods—especially in developmental psychology—for studying these processes in animals." Similarly, New Scientist reviewer Marc Bekoff described Wild Minds as a "fascinating and enlightening journey into the worlds of other animals."
Hauser moves from the subjects of cognition and communication o that of moral behavior in Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong. The book offers a controversial thesis: that, just as humans are thought to possess an innate sense of grammar and syntax that enables them to quickly learn language, they are also born with a universal sense of morality. This morality, furthermore, is largely similar across cultures, though some variation occurs. "We are born with abstract rules or principles," writes Hauser, "with nurture entering the picture to set the parameters and guide us toward the acquisition of particular moral systems." As Hauser explained to Josie Glausiusz in an interview for Discover magazine, the human brain possesses "a suite of universal principles that dictate how we think about the nature of harming and helping others, but each culture has some freedom—not unlimited—to dictate who is harmed and who is helped."
This universal moral sense allows us to respond to ethical problems quickly, writes Hauser, without having to pause and consider pro and con arguments. Indeed, as he commented to Glausiusz in the same interview, it is possible that an innate moral code evolved because it favored other elements of social cognition. Without such an innate mechanism, he explained, it would take humans a long period of time to work through each moral question or problem with which they are confronted—an extremely inefficient state of affairs. "There's something highly adaptive to the unconscious aspects of not having to think about these things all the time," Hauser added.
"A rich, pathbreaking book, Moral Minds uses evidence from rapidly advancing research on animal and human behavior to suggest that humans have an inborn moral faculty, parts of which they share with other animals—a claim that is acutely relevant to some of the most fundamental contemporary debates in philosophy and public life," wrote John Gray in the New York Review of Books. In a review in Science, Michael R. Waldmann stated that Moral Minds is "written for a wide audience" and "provides a superb overview of one of the hottest topics in the life sciences." Neil Levy, reviewing the book for the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that Hauser "offers us the most important scientific contribution to moral psychology in many decades, and it is certain to inspire and inform debate across many fields for years to come."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Hauser, Marc D., Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2000.
Hauser, Marc D., Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, Ecco (New York, NY), 2006.
American Anthropologist, June 1, 1997, Charles T. Snowdon, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 429.
American Journal of Primatology, March 1, 2007, M. Babette Fontenot, review of From Monkey Brain to Human Brain, p. 358.
American Scientist, January 1, 2007, Edward Edsten and Peter J. Richerson, "Principles-and-Parameters Redux," review of Moral Minds, p. 81.
Animal Behaviour, September 1, 1997, Peter K. McGregor, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 754; September 1, 1997, R. Haven Wiley, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 751.
BioScience, September 1, 2007, Klaus Zuberbuhler, "The Fitness of Goodness," review of Moral Minds, p. 706.
Bookwatch, July 1, 2006, review of People, Property, or Pets?
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January 1, 1997, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 818; July 1, 2000, F.T. Kuserk, review of Wild Minds, p. 2005.
Discover, May 10, 2007, Josie Glausiusz, "Is Morality Innate and Universal?," author interview.
Evolution, August, 1997, Michael J. Ryan, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 1333.
Guardian (London, England), May 12, 2007, Jonathan Derbyshire, review of Moral Minds.
Humanist, January 1, 2007, Carl Coon, review of Moral Minds, p. 41.
Journal of Communication, March 22, 1997, Donald G. Ellis, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 166.
Law and Politics Book Review, January 1, 2007, Susan Hunter and Richard A. Brisbin, Jr., review of People, Property, or Pets?, p. 15.
Library Journal, February 1, 2000, Beth Clewis Crim, review of Wild Minds, p. 113; March 1, 2001, review of Wild Minds, p. 48.
M2 Best Books, July 8, 2003, Caroline Turner, review of The Design of Animal Communication.
Minerva, Volume 46, 2008, Steve Clark, review of Moral Minds, pp. 147-150.
Natural History, March, 2000, Charles T. Snowdon, review of Wild Minds, p. 80.
Nature, August 15, 1996, Derek Bickerton, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 592; October 26, 2006, Paul Bloom and Jarudi Izzat, "The Chomsky of Morality: A View of Morality as the Product of an Innate Mental Faculty—Rather like Language," review of Moral Minds, p. 909.
New England Journal of Medicine, February 8, 2007, Neil Levy, review of Moral Minds, p. 644.
New Scientist, September 2, 2000, Marc Bekoff, review of Wild Minds, p. 46; March 17, 2001, review of Wild Minds, p. 58; March 3, 2007, Ivan Semeniuk, author interview.
New York Review of Books, May 10, 2007, John Gray, "Are We Born Moral?," review of Moral Minds, p. 26.
New York Times, October 31, 2006, Nicholas Wade, "An Evolutionary Theory of Right and Wrong," review of Moral Minds.
New York Times Book Review, March 12, 2000, George Page, "Speak, Monkey: A Noted Psychologist and Neurologist Examines Animal Communication," review of Wild Minds, p. 25; June 24, 2001, review of Wild Minds, p. 28; August 27, 2006, Richard Rorty, "Born to Be Good," review of Moral Minds; September 10, 2006, letter to the editor from Marc Hauser in response to the review of Moral Minds by Richard Rorty.
Psychology Today, September 1, 2006, Jessica Heasley, review of Moral Minds, p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006, review of Moral Minds, p. 147.
Quarterly Review of Biology, June 1, 1997, Andrew F. Richards, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 230; June 1, 2001, Franz Goller, review of The Design of Animal Communication, p. 269.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 1997, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 94; August 1, 2006, review of People, Property, or Pets?
Science, December 15, 2000, review of Wild Minds, p. 2080; October 6, 2006, Michael R. Waldmann, "A Case for the Moral Organ?," review of Moral Minds, p. 57.
Science Books & Films, January 1, 2007, Randall J. Russac, review of Moral Minds, p. 14.
Science News, September 9, 2006, review of Moral Minds, p. 175.
SciTech Book News, September 1, 1996, review of The Evolution of Communication, p. 21.
Time, November 13, 2006, David Van Biema, "God v. Science," brief author profile.
Washington Post Book World, October 15, 2006, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "How to Be Good: A Scientist Argues That Humans Have Ethics Hard-Wired into Us," review of Moral Minds, p. 13.
Wilson Quarterly, March 22, 2000, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, review of Wild Minds, p. 140.
Yale Review, September 11, 2007, Edison Miyawaki, "Gut Lesson," review of Moral Minds, pp. 121-133.
American Scientist Online,http://www.americanscientist.org/ (July, 2006), Greg Ross, author interview.
Edge: The Third Culture,http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/ (July 27, 2008), author information.
Harvard University Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department Web site,http://www.oeb.harvard.edu/ (July 21, 2008), author faculty profile.
Harvard University Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory Web site,http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/ (July 21, 2008), author faculty profile.
Seed Online,http://www.seedmagazine.com/ (May 12, 2008), Errol Morris, author interview.