"...learning that is influenced by observation of, or interaction with, another animal (typically a conspecific) or its products..."
C. Heyes, 1994
"...a distinctive behavior pattern shared by two or more individuals in a social unit, which persists over time and that new practitioners acquire in part through socially aided learning..."
D. Fragaszy & S. Perry, 2003
...defined by some as synonymous with tradition; others require additional criteria such as that cultures are constituted of multiple and/or diverse kinds of traditions, such as technology and social customs...
A. Whiten & C. van Schaik 2007: see Whiten, 2005 and Laland and Galef, 2009, for further discussion
Culture so strongly shapes us humans that it might seem at first sight to separate us from the rest of biology and from Darwinian evolution. Our recent research paints a very different picture.
We've discovered that 'culture' (broadly, the passing on of traditions by learning from others) is a much more important force in the animal kingdom than has been assumed. It's richer in quality than anybody thought, in a range of animals from fish to apes, and even insects.
Because culture provides a second kind of inheritance, piggy-backing on existing genetic inheritance, discovering the forms it takes is extending and transforming our understanding of biology and Darwinian evolution.
Professor Andy Whiten.