Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Establishing an experimental science of culture: animal social diffusion experiments

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

DOI

Author(s)

Andrew Whiten, A Mesoudi

School/Research organisations

Abstract

A growing set of observational studies documenting putative cultural variations in wild animal populations has been complemented by experimental studies that can more rigorously distinguish between social and individual learning. However, these experiments typically examine only what one animal learns from another. Since the spread of culture is inherently a group-level phenomenon, greater validity can be achieved through 'diffusion experiments', in which founder behaviours are experimentally manipulated and their spread across multiple individuals tested. Here we review the existing corpus of 33 such studies in fishes, birds, rodents and primates and offer the first systematic analysis of the diversity of experimental designs that have arisen. We distinguish three main transmission designs and seven different experimental/control approaches, generating an array with 21 possible cells, 15 of which are currently represented by published studies. Most but not all of the adequately controlled diffusion experiments have provided robust evidence for cultural transmission in at least some taxa, with transmission spreading across populations of up to 24 individuals and along chains of up to 14 transmission events. We survey the achievements of this work, its prospects for the future and its relationship to diffusion studies with humans discussed in this theme issue and elsewhere.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3477-3488
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Volume363
Issue number1509
DOIs
StatePublished - 12 Nov 2008

    Research areas

  • culture, cultural transmission, social learning, diffusion experiments, diffusion chains, transmission chains, FORAGING INFORMATION, NORWAY RATS, CAPTIVE CHIMPANZEES, COURTSHIP PATTERNS, ENEMY RECOGNITION, MOLOTHRUS-ATER, TOOL USE, TRANSMISSION, TRADITIONS, BEHAVIOR

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) display limited behavioural flexibility when faced with a changing foraging task requiring tool use

    Harrison, R. A. & Whiten, A. 19 Feb 2018 In : PeerJ. 6, 28 p., e4366

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Field experiments with wild primates reveal no consistent dominance-based bias in social learning

    Botting, J., Whiten, A., Grampp, M. & van de Waal, E. Feb 2018 In : Animal Behaviour. 136, p. 1-12 12 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Innovation and social transmission in experimental micro-societies: exploring the scope of cumulative culture in young children

    McGuigan, N., Burdett, E., Burgess, V., Dean, L., Lucas, A., Vale, G. & Whiten, A. 5 Dec 2017 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 372, 1735, 14 p., 20160425

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. The development of selective copying: children's learning from an expert versus their mother

    Lucas, A. J., Burdett, E. R. R., Burgess, V., Wood, L. A., McGuigan, N., Harris, P. L. & Whiten, A. 7 Nov 2017 In : Child Development. 88, 6, p. 2026-2042 17 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Related by journal

  1. Tool Use as Adaptation

    Biro, D. (ed.), Haslam, M. (ed.) & Rutz, C. (ed.) 2013 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences, 368, 1630

    Research output: ResearchSpecial issue

Related by journal

  1. Innovation and social transmission in experimental micro-societies: exploring the scope of cumulative culture in young children

    McGuigan, N., Burdett, E., Burgess, V., Dean, L., Lucas, A., Vale, G. & Whiten, A. 5 Dec 2017 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 372, 1735, 14 p., 20160425

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Perception of health from facial cues

    Henderson, A. J., Holzleitner, I. J., Talamas, S. N. & Perrett, D. I. 5 May 2016 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 371, 1693, p. 1-9 9 p., 20150380

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Biogeochemical significance of pelagic ecosystem function: an end-Cretaceous case study

    Henehan, M., Hull, P., Penman, D., Rae, J. W. B. & Schmidt, D. May 2016 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 371, 1694, 14 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Related by journal

  1. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences (Journal)

    Rutz, C. (Editor)
    20122013

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  2. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B (Journal)

    Cresswell, W. (Member of editorial board)
    20092014

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  3. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences (Journal)

    van Mourik, T. (Member of editorial board)
    2009

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  4. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences (Journal)

    Whiten, A. (Member of editorial board)
    2008 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

ID: 411552