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IU study: Humans' critical ability to throw long distances aided by an illusion
Date:1/23/2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Can't help molding some snow into a ball and hurling it or tossing a stone as far into a lake as you can? New research from Indiana University and the University of Wyoming shows how humans, unlike any other species on Earth, readily learn to throw long distances. This research also suggests that this unique evolutionary trait is entangled with language development in a way critical to our very existence.

The study, appearing online Jan. 14 in the journal "Evolution and Human Behavior," suggests that the well-established size-weight illusion, where a person who is holding two objects of equal weight will consider the larger object to be much lighter, is more than just curious or interesting, but a necessary precursor to humans' ability to learn to throw -- and to throw far.

Just as young children unknowingly experience certain perceptual auditory biases that help prepare them for language development, the researchers assert that the size-weight illusion primes children to learn to throw. It unwittingly gives them an edge -- helping them choose an object of size and weight most effective for throwing.

"These days we celebrate our unique throwing abilities on the football or baseball field or basketball court, but these abilities are a large part of what made us successful as a species," said Geoffrey Bingham, professor in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "It was not just language. It was language and throwing that led to the survival of Homo sapiens, and we are now beginning to gain some understanding of how these abilities are rapidly acquired by members of our species."

Why is throwing so important from an evolutionary standpoint? Bingham said Homo sapiens have been so successful as a species because of three factors: Social organization and cooperation, language, which helps with the former factor, and the ability to throw long distance. This trio allowed Homo sapiens to "
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Contact: Geoffrey Bingham
gbingham@indiana.edu
812-855-1544
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert

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