Chapter 3(1): culture and evolution
Is Culture Unique to Humans?
If we define culture as an ability to learn new things then we are not alone. Japanese
Macaque’s “potato washing”, Japanese Macaque’s “hand washing”. Both imitated the
behaviour from humans. Chimps’ “ant eating tools ( use barks to eat termites. This is
completely different from other chimps ”
Imitative Learning vs. Emulative Learning
Imitative Learning: The learning style in which learners focus on the model’s
intentions, and internalize something of the model’s goals and behavioural strategies.
Emulative Learning: The learning style in which learners focus only on what the model
appear to be doing, and engage in trial and error to change the situation (e.g. get bananas)
Research study by Nagel et al., 1993
Contrasted chimp’s and two year old children to find what type of learning mechanism do
they use. Subjects watched a target use a rake to retrieve a desired object that they
couldn’t otherwise reach. Half of the subjects saw the target use the rake in the most
effective “teeth up” position; the other half saw the target use the rake in a less effective
“teeth down” position.
Results: Children used the rake in the same way that the target did (his goals and his
intentions). Chimpanzees used the rake in the more effective “teeth up” position
regardless of the way the target used it (focused on the end result and found most
effective way by accident). That is, the children demonstrated imitative learning, and the
chimpanzees demonstrated emulative learning.
Key Benefit of Imitative Learning
Imitative learning allows for a faithful and high fidelity reproduction of the target
behavior. New cultural information cannot only be accurately reproduced it can also be
improved. This allows for cultural accumulation = Rachet effect (Tomasello et al, 1993).
You don’t have to start from stretch in subsequent invention. The accumulated knowledge
is always moving forward and overtime this knowledge builds up. It is because of this
knowledge that we are able to build the human civilizations. Chimps level of cultural
knowledge remains the same where human’s increase exponentially.
Human’s big brain and its high ratio of the basal metabolism: why is that that we use
so much more then other animals.
Competing Theories for Why Primates have such Big Brains
• Many species of primates