Humans are wimps. Why did our muscles “devolve”?
Is Culture Unique to Humans?
Hard to say – it depends on the definition of culture.
If the definition is “Symbolic Coding” then yes, culture is unique to humans.
If the definition is “Social Transmission”, then no, culture is not unique to humans.
Story: Potatowashing gorilla
Story: Chimps fishing for termites
Story: Elephant hunting, and aggressive elephant descendents.
Story: Dolphins use tools, have “language” etc.
Tools etc. differ between groups (or cultures!)
Story: even Pigeons and guppies show a form of culture!
So if both humans and animals can engage in cultural learning, what IS the difference?
1. The EXTENT to which we culturally learn, and how damn good we are at it. Quick to pick it up.
2. Humans seem to CHOOSE who to imitate to a much greater extent than animals.
Eg: We value “prestige”
Study: Children + “attended to” models and “unattended to” models P37
Valuing prestige is actually a way to make cultural learning much more efficient in many ways.
It isn’t always subconsciously clear to us what makes them prestigious. What part of Tiger Woods
makes him a good golfer?
For that reason, we seem to have evolved mechanisms for general imitation. Advertisers
capitalize on this.
Explains why we are fascinated with famous people.
The amazing ability for us to Culturally learn rests on two main factors. 1. Theory of Mind
Basic Definition: The ability to consider the perspectives of others.
Whether other animals (such as chimps) have this is still hazy and widely debated.
This is helpful to cultural learning. By understanding the goals of others, we can internalize them
and see how we might have those goals and see the solution to them through observation.
Shows the contrast in two types of learning:
1. Imitative Learning
The learner internalizes some of the models goals and behavioral strategies.
2. Emulative Learning
The learner is focused on the environmental events that are involved – how the use of one object
could potentially change the state of the environment.
Doesn’t require behavioral emulation.
“Emulative learners try to figure things out for themselves after getting the idea from others”
Emulative Learning has it’s benefits:
STUDY: Children + Chimps + Rake P41
STUDY: Children doing irrelevant actions P41
“Being able to communicate is an enormous part of conveying cultural information”
Cumulative Cultural Evolution
This is the way that human culture stands headandshoulders above all the other animal
After an initial idea is learned from others, it can then be modified and improved upon by others.
Like a ratchet, cultural information goes forward without slipping backwards. Ie: Cultural information
can continue to accumulate without losing prior information.
Start with a basic tool, but then that basic tool needs to become so solidified, it has to become the
foundation for future innovations.
This doesn’t really happen in any animal besides humans. Too much slippage in their ratchets.
Hammer p 44
Little Rant P 45 What about cases where cultures sometimes DO lose ideas?
Eg: Tasmania. “Technol