Every animal has a nest, including humans. At full-term birth, a human baby looks like the fetus of other animals for nine more months. The newborn emerges with only 25% of adult brain capacity, which grows especially rapidly in the first year with 90% in place by age 5 (Wenda Trevathan, 2011). Thus an intensive, supportive nest is needed for proper development of human capacities.
Studying the evolved nest is necessarily an interdisciplinary area of study because we have to know our history as social mammals, what optimizes our development in our sensitive early years and what undermines the development of a cooperative human nature.
What does interdisciplinary scholarship tell us about the evolved nest? For humans, who are part of the social mammalian line, the evolved nest includes:
All these components foster well-functioning physiological systems in social mammals and humans. Systems developed during the early years include the stress response, vagus nerve, endocrine systems, neurotransmitters, immune system, and sociality. These are all influenced by the quality of the nest. But emotion systems are also shaped by these components. The late Jaak Panksepp was a pioneer in showing the similarities between humans and other social mammals in terms of emotion systems and their development.
Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Trevathan, W.R. (2011). Human birth: An evolutionary perspective, 2nd ed.. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
2010 symposium with talks by anthropologists, clinical, developmental and neuro-scientists.