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 6:
Evolving language in the lab

evolving languages

Where does language come from? Some scientists have answered this question by focusing on how our brains evolved to learn languages. We have studied the other side of the coin - how languages themselves evolve to become better adapted to being learned by us. To do this we allowed miniature languages to evolve in the lab.

By exposing each volunteer in our experiments to the language produced by the previous volunteer, we saw how language adapts to fit our brains. Over time our miniature languages become easier to learn, and started to show the basic "design-features" we see in real languages. Cultural evolution may be as important as biological evolution in explaining the origins of humanity's defining characteristic: language.

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