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what is different about the definition of culture?

there is no strict definition of culture- used flexibly in different disciplines (arts humanities and sciences)


who defines culture and what as?

Barett et al. (2002) = ‘beliefs or rules of behaviour (or perhaps more generally knowledge of the world) that are passed on from one individual to another by some form of social learning (including teaching


what does EP aim to discover about culture?

Culture is a characteristic feature of the human species- a fundamental part of our behaviour.
Culture is often seen as unique to the human species, thus evolutionary psychologists want to know why we have it, what it is for and how it works.


what can we say culture is?

Any kind of physical manifestation of tech/ shared practice/ beliefs all of that is culture.


is there evidence of culture in different species

If we take culture to be any behavioural practice/ tech that is not a inherent part of behaviour and is transmitted socially then we can see evidence in non-human species.


sudy of animals showing culture?

Chimpanzees (Whiten et al, 1999, Nature)
1. Analysis of 39 behaviours over 151 years (observations) – e.g. termite fishing, courtship rituals
2. Differences between populations can differ across boundaries (e.g. a large river- . nut cracking one side of a river but not the other even though species genetically the same.)
3. Can’t be explained by ecological factors such as availability of suitable raw materials for making tools/ only get nut cracking where you get a certain nut.

Clearly suggests there is something cultural going on here. No clear geographical explanation of why behaviours exist in some sites and not others so thus must be cultural.


so overall what can be said about animals exhibiting culture?

Clearly other species show patterns of behaviour that have to be described as cultural. The process may be the same, but it doesn’t manifest itself in the same way, or with as much complexity as in humans. And isn’t necessarily driven by the same mechanisms.


what are the two main questions that can be asked about culture in humans?

1. What are the psychological processes underlying culture?
2. Why/how are these abilities so developed in humans?


what do psychologists argue is crucial for culture?

Psychologists argue that social learning is crucial for the development of cultural behavior- (Tomasello and Call, 1997)


what are the three ways an individual can learn from another?

• Stimulus enhancement
• Emulation
• Imitation


who developed stimulus enhancement?

Whiten & Ham, 1992)


talk about stimulus enhancement

• Most basic level of cultural transmission.
• A model’s action draws the observers’ attention to a particular stimulus. The observer figures out the relevant action-outcome connection for themselves (birds and bottle tops)

• Provide other individuals with a prompt to investigate a stimuli and develop their own discoveries about the stimuli.
• So not truly socially transmitted


give e.g.s of stimulus enhancement

• E.g. birds and bottle tops birds would peck the foil on top of milk bottles this is a culturally transmitted practice birds observe other birds interacting with bottle would then explore bottle and then find the cream themselves.
• E.g. yam washing Japanese Macaques- yams nicer to eat if washed observe one individual washing and took yam into water and found nicer to eat.


who developed emulation?

Tomasello 1990


talk about emulation

• The observer emulates the goal or outcome of the model’s behaviour but does not copy every step.
• Trying to replicate an outcome
• Common amongst chimps- e.g. see older chimp getting termites out of mound- figure out yourself how to do this. Lots of young chimps will pay a large amount of attention to what older chimps are doing.
• But no explicit teaching and still have to figure out for themselves how to make it all work.


talk about imitation

• ‘gold standard’ of cultural transmission.
• The observer copies the actions of the model


what social learning is common in humans

imitation not just engage in imitation but actually over-imitation in children.


give e.g. of over imitation in children

Nielsen (2010) – tapping a puzzle box will result in children also tapping the box even though this bears no influence in actually completing the task.


why is it proposed that over-imitation occurs?

o Marsh et al. 2014- social modulation of over-imitation- much more likely to get over-imitation if an audience suggesting that is something to do with showing an audience that you are engaging in these tasks.
o Marsh et al., 2013- Children with ASD conditions are less likely to show over-imitation
o So potentially something to do with engaging in social relationships


what is the crucial thing about over-imitation?

• The crucial thing about over-imitation is that if you engage in it, then you are going to take on non-functional social behaviours from your social group which means that you can then get all this cultural complexity that is removed from the immediate constraints and drives and needs of your ecology.


what does over imitation allow in humans?

• So you can use imitation to get useful behaviour patterns that help in ecology but what over-imitation does in humans is that it allows us to take on all of these additional aspects of behaviours that aren’t functional. And that of course opens doorways into dysfunctional behaviour also.


e.g. of over imitation in chimps versus children

Children will imitate the behaviour of a poke and lift box
Chimps will copy the poke/ lift if you prime with poke more likely to use poke and vice versa. So they will copy human behaviour, what they won’t do is copy the human over-embellishments.
e.g. Clay and Tennie
• Opening a box to get out a sticker (children) and grape (bonobos)- added two irrelevant actions into this also.
• The observer copies the actions of the model
• Common in humans
• Over-imitation is not seen in primates


why is it proposed that social learning is a good idea? and who proposed this

Morgan et al. 2015 paper
• Faster than trial-and-error learning much more straight forward to learn from an individual than trying to work it out on own.
• More efficient (if someone else has already learned something)


good quote for more efficient of social learning

‘Each generation can stand on the shoulders of its predecessors’ Barrett et al. (2002)


what is efficiency of cultural transmission also known as?

the Ratchet Effect/ Cumulative Cultural Evolution- - if don’t need to learn from scratch then can actually build that information also. Can take cultural info and enhance and develop it which is how you get building levels of cultural complexity.


e.g. of humans being able to develop more complex behaviors

o E..g. lift and poke box- can show a child and a chimp a lift and they will both do it- if you then show a child a poke and say this is better and more efficient they will do the poke also. But with a chimp if you have shown them a way to get what they want out of the puzzle box they wont then change this way. They can learn something socially, but one it is learned they wont change the way they do it. Thus, cultural behaviors amongst chimps are much less likely to develop/ become elaborate as they are not adjusting what they are doing. They’re developing behavioral patterns through social learning and imitation but they are not able to elaborate on these and make changes one they exist.


why is it probable that humans can develop more and more complex culture and chimps cant?

o In order to change what you’re doing to make it better you have to be able to think about the way you think about what you’re doing (meta-represent it ) and hold all this in head. Probably chimps don’t have that representation to start adjusting things e.g. comparing two methods in head.


but what is the problem with learning through imitation only?

If imitation is such a good idea – who will act as an individual learner? (Rogers, 1989) Why would anyone act as an individual learner themselves in order to allow culture to cumulatively get better if everyone can get by with social learning


what is the suggested explanation for why individuals would still act as a individual learner?

o But, people might be selective in their imitation, and/or individual learners might get special privilege (Boyd & Richerson, 1994)
– We idolise ‘good’ examples (cultural icons)
– We have a strong willingness to conform (Milgram, 1974!)

– Frequency dependent selection type thing- most people will be social learners most of the time and sometimes individual learners whereas others should really to be individual learners most of the time as they’re the ones creating all the extra skills and knowledge base which allows the rest of the population to thrive. The rest of the population can only thrive if they are copying the right people at a reasonable rate.


what needs to be done to fully understand how cultural transmission works?

If were going to try and understand what culture is and how it works, we need to decide in what way we can try and quantify it in the same way we quantify other things that evolve.