Humans, as we know them today, are the only extant members of Hominina clade (or human clade), a branch of the tribe Hominini belonging to the family of great apes. Their characteristics are erect posture and bipedal locomotion, manual dexterity and increased tool use, and a general trend toward larger, more complex brains.
Here is where I have to digress.
According to many reputable scienctific sources, mammals with larger brains have more self-control. In fact, two neuroscientists have recently proposed a theory, published in Trends in Cognitive Science.
On a scale relating brain size and body size of different species, the human brain is about five times the size it should be if we followed the trend set by other mammals.
Their theory suggests that as the human brain grew and expanded, neuron connections were pulled apart and the extra space allowed for a greater number and more complex neuron connections to form. The neurons and circuits in the association cortex do not rely on input from the outside environment. That’s why as humans we are able to think introspectively and learn about ourselves — a trait called meta-cognition.
So if the human brain is larger to allow for more cognitive behavior and we, compared to apes, can stand upright and use tools better vs. being a tool, I look around and wonder – what happened?
Sometimes, it feels like the only difference between humanity and the chimps is that we’re only slightly less hairy. Maybe humans are not so special after all; maybe we are just an oddly evolved ape.
Instead of classifying humans, let’s look at the different types of people. And I mean people, not their personalities, i.e. Myers-Briggs, which classifies everyone into 1 of 16 different personality indicators.
Nor the Integrative Enneagram, a psychological structure representing 9 entirely unique types of people. It is different from the Myers-Briggs because it isn’t simply a description of our personalities but who we are innately, who we have been since we were toddlers.
A quick Google search will yield you every test and quiz under the sun to identify you in any [insert number here] types of people. YouTube offers a plethora of categories to self-identify with or begin to classify those in your life.
If you want to be very literal about classifying people, the Institute of Education Sciences have compiled a list of categories (developed in 1997 by the Office of Management and Budget) that are used to describe groups to which individuals belong, identify with, or belong in the eyes of the community. The designations are used to categorize United States citizens, resident aliens, and other eligible non-citizens by the federal and state governments, including the U.S. Census.
Individuals are asked to first designate ethnicity as:
- Hispanic or Latino or
- Not Hispanic or Latino
Second, individuals are asked to indicate one or more races that apply among the following:
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Black or African American
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Placing something in a category and describing its properties have very different effects on the way we think about things. Throughout the world, racial, cultural, and ethnic differences are used to place people into different categories. Once we categorize people in this way, we automatically assume that they have the essence of this category.
Classifying people into a group brings along the belief that the members of that group share some essential characteristics. This may be true for physical characteristics or even personality characteristics, but a person’s individuality or uniqueness is likely in a category of its own.
I can see the next Facebook quiz now…”Click here to discover which one of the 7.4 billion people on earth you are most like.”
Melody K. Smith, writer and wrangler
Access Innovations, Inc.