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Culture evolves Introduction

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Abstract

Culture pervades human lives and has allowed our species to create niches all around the world and its oceans, in ways quite unlike any other primate. Indeed, our cultural nature appears so distinctive that it is often thought to separate humanity from the rest of nature and the Darwinian forces that shape it. A contrary view arises through the recent discoveries of a diverse range of disciplines, here brought together to illustrate the scope of a burgeoning field of cultural evolution and to facilitate cross-disciplinary fertilization. Each approach emphasizes important linkages between culture and evolutionary biology rather than quarantining one from the other. Recent studies reveal that processes important in cultural transmission are more widespread and significant across the animal kingdom than earlier recognized, with important implications for evolutionary theory. Recent archaeological discoveries have pushed back the origins of human culture to much more ancient times than traditionally thought. These developments suggest previously unidentified continuities between animal and human culture. A third new array of discoveries concerns the later diversification of human cultures, where the operations of Darwinian-like processes are identified, in part, through scientific methods borrowed from biology. Finally, surprising discoveries have been made about the imprint of cultural evolution in the predispositions of human minds for cultural transmission.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)938-948
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Volume366
Issue number1567
DOIs
StatePublished - 12 Apr 2011

    Research areas

  • culture, cultural evolution, traditions, social learning, human evolution, cognition, SOCIAL-LEARNING STRATEGIES, MODERN HUMAN-BEHAVIOR, EVOLUTION, TRANSMISSION, ANIMALS, SCIENCE, ORIGIN

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