Special Issue

April 2011

Special Issue

A special issue from Royal Society Publishing- 'Culture evolves', organized and edited by Andrew Whiten, Robert A Hinde, Christopher B Stringer & Kevin N Laland.


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£47.50: Details & Order info... (quote special code TB1567)
or email Debbie.Vaughan@royalsociety.org



Social learning:
"...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


Case Study 4:
Culture in 'Laboratory Microsocieties'


Real human cultures are enormously complicated, and difficult to probe using the most powerful method in a scientist's toolkit - the experiment. To study such things as the factors that influence the rate of spread and survival of traditions, we have carried out "microsociety" experiments (1, 2) that bring social learning into the laboratory.

In these microsocieties, membership of the population changes over time as individuals join and leave, like in real cultures, and they face a challenge such as building a spaghetti tower as high as possible, as in our exhibit. One such recent study showed that as life in such a microcosm became more unpredictable, people clung more faithfully to relatively arbitrary local traditions (3).

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