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 Studies:

"We've always considered culture as a uniquely human attribute, something to be celebrated as an integral part of civilisations through the ages. However, scientific research is now questioning this perceived wisdom and identifying in other species some fascinating examples of social customs and other practices associated with culture. That science may show that culture is an attribute shared by species other than our own would result in some challenging moral dilemmas for us to navigate, as well as potentially challenging our own understanding of what it means to be human."
Lord Melvyn Bragg FRS FBA - Science Sees Further

University of St AndrewsUniversity of CambridgeUniversity of EdinburghUniversity of StirlingBBSRCLeverhulme TrustESRCERC

Our research is generously funded by many different bodies including the Royal Society. Why is it important? One set of answers is at the level of fundamental scientific understanding of human nature, and where the transmission of cultural information fits into the wider natural world. This essentially appeals to our scientific curiosity about ourselves, why we function as we do and more generally, how biological systems work.

The more practical and applied implications of this work are very diverse. They range from children's education, to robotics (what is necessary to have one being copy another?), animal welfare, conservation and reintroduction (what is involved in relocating a culturally-dependent animal to a new environment) and medicine (as culture shapes genetics).

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