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The Evolved Nest Glossary

Affectionate touch is part of humanity’s evolved nest and our multi-million-year mammalian heritage. Babies are physiologically like fetuses of other animals till 18 months of age, so touch and carrying are especially important in the first couple of years of life. But affectionate touch is also part of our extended evolved nest throughout life, keeping us calm and socially-centered.


Allomothers/alloparentsare a set of responsive familiar adult caregivers (“allomothers” or “alloparents”) is a characteristic of humanity’s evolved nest. It’s not just mom that meets the need of baby for companionship care but other adults like fathers and grandmothers.


Autonomy surge. When children reach around age 1.5 or 2, they show lots of energy for testing things out, for trying and developing skills themselves. The child is too young to understand the impact of their actions. For anything that looks like aggression, it works best to make games out of it, redirecting their actions, and avoid thwarting their energy. There is also an autonomy surge in adolescence when the adolescent wants to try new things and stretch their skills. 


Breastfeeding is part of humanity’s evolved nest and our multi-million-year mammalian heritage. Every mammal species (and there are over 4000) has its own specialized breastmilk and length of time it is provided to build a healthy offspring. Our species-typical length for breastfeeding is 4 years.


Co-regulationrefers to the way that a baby learns in relationship with caregivers to self-regulate their physiological systems (e.g., heart rate, breathing, stress response) and young children learn to regulate their emotions. But even adults need relational co-regulation of their brains’ limbic systems (basic emotion systems)—we get dysregulated in isolation.


Communal imagination refers to when a person has empathy and relational connection in the present moment but also uses their capacities to think about actions and possibilities that, in its broadest sense, respect the entire living community (humans and other-than-humans) currently and in the future.


Companionship Care refers to the provision of the evolved nest in childhood. 


Cultural Commons refers to the effects of the evolved nest on the type of human nature that a person develops. All over the world where the evolved nest is provided, adults are calm, cooperative, generous, independent and communal. 


The Cycle of Competitive Detachmentis the interlocking causes and effects of a society not providing the evolved nest to children (undercare). It leads to poor psychosocial neurobiology which undermines proper development on all levels, leading to adults who lack wellbeing, flourishing and wisdom, which results in their accepting or promoting a culture and is practices that perpetuate the cycle.


The Cycle of Cooperative Companionship refers to the interlocking causes and effects of when a society provides the evolved nest to children. This leads to healthy psychosocial neurobiology which undergirds all capacities, leading then to adults who exhibit wellbeing, flourishing and wisdom, which causes the adults to continue the culture of companionship care (evolved nest provision), keeping the cycle going.


Elder wisdomis the outcome from a life lived in the extended evolved nest.


Empathy roots refer to the foundations for our empathic life with others. The roots develop in infancy based on our own experience of being treated with empathy ourselves.


Engagement Ethic refers to the state we are in when we are relationally attuned to the other, when we treat them with reverence and equal importance to ourselves.


Ethical Mindsets refers to the different states of mind we can be in when we are making moral decisions or taking moral action. Some are beneficial (engagement/relational attunement, communal imagination) and some are typically harmful to the social fabric (oppositionalism, withdrawal, righteous or vicious imagination, iced imagination).


Evolved Nest or Evolved Developmental Niche refers to the characteristics of the nest that humanity as a species evolved to optimize normal development. The evolved nest for young children includes soothing perinatal experiences; responsiveness to needs to prevent distress; at first constant, then frequent, affectionate touch; infant-initiated breastfeeding for several years; multiple responsive familiar adult caregivers; positive social support for mother and child; positive climate; self-directed social free play in natural world. 


Extended Evolved Nest refers to the nest beyond childhood that keeps adults healthy and prosocial. It involves affection, positive climate, play, friendship and other experiences that meet basic needs and brings about a sense of belonging and autonomy.


External wombis what a child needs till around 18 months of age. Babies look like fetuses of other animals till that age and so need to be kept in optimal arousal level to grow neurobiological systems properly.


Iced Imagination refers to the mindset when we are detached from our emotions but making decisions and taking actions from that state of being. It’s useful at times (e.g., emergency room doctor patching up a person) but most of the time it can be dangerous because we forget can ignore the full consequences of our actions.


Mindsets refers to the different worldviews or states of mind we can be in when we are making decisions or taking action. 


Moral Fitness refers to our ability to be in the right mindset for the situation which requires flexible social intelligence and a toolbox of skills and the wisdom to apply them in the right way for the situation.


Moral mindsets: see Ethical Mindsets


Multiple responsive familiar adult caregivers is part of humanity’s evolved nest. It’s not just mom that meets the need of baby for companionship care but other adults like fathers and grandmothers.


Mutually responsive orientation(MRO) is a term coined by Grazyna Kochanska, a developmental psychologist who studies child-mother relationships.


Nature connectionis one of our heritages as earth creatures but it must be nurtured and is best done in early life when we are establishing our sense of the social world. 


Positive climate is part of humanity’s evolved nest. Feeling like one belongs and has a positive contribution to the community are important for wellbeing.


Positive social support for mother and child is part of humanity’s evolved nest and our multi-million-year mammalian heritage. Mothers are more responsive when they feel supported and like the child is supported by the community.


Responsiveness to needs to prevent distressis part of humanity’s evolved nest and our multi-million-year mammalian heritage. It supports optimal psychosocial and neurobiological development.


Righteous Imagination is the mindset we are in when we want to make others to do what we want (‘for their own good’). We think our way is superior and should be forced on others.

Example: Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter story fame.


Self authorshiprefers to the way individuals, after early childhood, make choices that build their character and capacities. 


Self-directed social free play in natural world is part of humanity’s evolved nest and our multi-million-year mammalian heritage. This kind of play builds self-regulation, social skills and bonding with others and the natural world.


Self-Protectionist Ethics are mindsets we activate to feel safe through dominance (opposition, righteous imagination) or submission (withdrawal) or numbness (iced imagination).


Self-regulationusually refers to the person’s ability to control their negative emotions, a capacity that is dependent on stress response regulation (which is co-constructed by caregivers in early life).


Soothing perinatal experiences is part of humanity’s evolved nest and our multi-million-year mammalian heritage. It refers to keeping baby with mother after birth, no painful procedures or extraneous stress-inducing experiences during this period.


Species typical childhoodprovides the evolved nest and extensive positive support.


Species typical human nature involves capacities for relational attunement and communal imagination.


Undercare refers to the lack of evolved nest provision to a child. This violates a child’s built-in expectations for support and undermines normal optimal development.



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