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.


Flier (pdf)

£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 5:
The Great Social Learning Tournament

social learning

Culture evolves as animals find ever more efficient ways of learning from others.  To uncover the best learning rules we organized a scientific competition where we invited people to suggest alternative learning strategies, offering a prize for the most effective one. The entries were pitted against each other in a computer tournament so that natural selection could choose the best strategy. Over 100 researchers entered from around the world, including biologists, economists and mathematicians.

The winning strategy, submitted by Canadian neuroscientist Tim Lillicrap and mathematician Dan Cownden, copied almost exclusively, cleverly weighting information according to how old it was and estimating for how long particular actions would be useful.  The tournament helps us to understand why copying is widespread in nature and why humans are so good at it. You can play the same game at the 'Culture Evolves' stand and website.

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