Thomas Suddendorf, University of Queensland


The physical continuity between humans and other animals is incontestable, but human minds seem extraordinary. Our mental capacities have spawned civilisations and technologies that have changed the face of the Earth, whereas even our closest animal relatives remain unobtrusively in their dwindling forests. But what is it about human minds that enabled us to do this? In this presentation, I will give some examples from a research program aimed at clarifying what exactly humans share with other animals and what sets human minds apart. A clearer understanding can narrow down the search space for the neurological and genetic bases of complex human traits, and shed light on the origin of our peculiar place in nature.


Thomas Suddendorf is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Queensland. He studies the development of mental capacities in young children and in nonhuman animals to answer fundamental questions about the nature and evolution of the human mind. Thomas has received honours and distinctions for both his research and teaching, including awards from the Association for Psychological Science, the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, and the American Psychological Association. His new book “THE GAP- The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals” (NY: Basic Books) has attracted outstanding reviews in international journals (e.g. Nature, Science) and newspapers alike (e.g. The Times, The Wall Street Journal). “Bild der Wissenschaft” awarded the German translation [“Der Unterschied – Was den Mensch zum Menschen macht”] 3rd place in the 2015 selection “Das Wissensbuch des Jahres der Kategorie Überblick”.