The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2011 honors the developmental psychologist Professor Michael Tomasello. The principal results of Professor Michael Tomasello’s research are that even one-year-old children who cannot yet speak help and cooperate with other children. This behavior exists without any educational influence from adults. Tomasello’s comparative research on communicative behavior and learning processes in preschool children on the one hand, and great apes on the other, has proven that human beings are born to cooperate and that this is a primary factor that distinguishes them from apes.
Small children do not perceive spaces, quantities or logical connections better than apes, but they can learn more easily together with others, and are quicker to recognize the intentions of others. This is the foundation of the ability for language. The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2011, endowed with one million Swiss francs, is for Professor Michael Tomasello a welcome incentive to carry out further work in his field of research: “With the prize money we will be able to realize several research measures that would otherwise have been impossible. In concrete terms, we can now plan larger-scale research projects over a longer period of time.”