5 Unusual (But Awesome) Things That Make Us Human

Shae Duncan

Hello fellow human being. What wonderful creatures we are. I’d like to share with you the incredible tendencies that make us such a fascinating species. And no, I’m not talking about the invention of the iPhone or the Bionic Ear.

There are 5 particularly unusual tendencies, unique to the human race, that are often overlooked. In a society where grief and sadness is capitalised on hugely by the media, I would like to take the time to celebrate the little, yet extraordinary things that separate us from all other species.

1. Language

Human language is a form of communication that is unique in the natural world. What makes it even more unique is our language can take the form of oral, visual, gestural and even tactile. I mean sure, a monkey can scream to warn its mates of an approaching predator, but it can’t communicate something like “Hey mate, I might sit tonight out, I’ve had a doozy of a day”. Now don’t get me started on the fascination behind world languages. Or the fact that when you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language, hand gestures and facial expressions are a great way to get you to the nearest loo (come on we’ve all been there!).

2. Self-awareness

A fascinating attribute to being human is our level of self-awareness. More importantly our ability to be aware, that we are aware of basis sensory inputs. In layman’s terms, we are able to reflect on our feelings and judgements with results in an emotional response (except if you’re a psychopath). Other animals definitely recognise feelings, for example a happy dog at the dog park, however it’s the level of self-reflection discussed earlier, that is innate to being human and is what give us our superconsciousness. Deep stuff huh!?

3. Imagination

Imagine a world without imagination. Whatttt, no thank you! Imagination is a natural element that makes us human. I’m not only talking about little humans (kids) playing in the schoolyard here. It is with thanks to our imaginations, we have evolved as a society. We innovated and cultivated our visions of seemingly impossible goals into fantastical realities. In a nutshell, we are dreamers and these dreams have shaped our world. The funny part !? This characteristic may lead us to our own destruction, but it also may be our only hope for saving diverse life on Earth.

4. Nakedness

Did you know, we are the only species on earth that does not have enough natural protection on our bodies, to shelter us from the elements. All other animals have hair, foot pads, claws, beaks … to name a few. Us poor, delicate humans have naked skin, yes of course with a touch of hair, but our need to wear clothes to protect us from the cold, the sun and the wind makes us innately human. I mean of course the occasional nudie run is the one exception here!

5. Tears

How good does an old fashioned cry make you feel? Well, when watching The Titanic, not after having your heart ripped in two. Crying and producing tears from our tear ducts, as an emotional response to a situation, is inextricably linked to being human. Sure, some other species shed tears reflexively as a result of pain or irritation, however humans are the only creatures whose tears can be triggered by their feelings.

All in all, we are pretty damn incredible beings and this should be celebrated!


If this is just a preview of this year’s theme – HumanKind – then there are some seriously powerful ideas to follow. Register your interest and secure your spot for this year’s TEDxSydney.  


Photo credit: Remi Walle