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The evolution of social learning mechanisms and cultural phenomena in group foragers

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Abstract

Background:  Advanced cognitive abilities are widely thought to underpin cultural traditions and cumulative cultural change. In contrast, recent simulation models have found that basic social influences on learning suffice to support both cultural phenomena. In the present study we test the predictions of these models in the context of skill learning, in a model with stochastic demographics, variable group sizes, and evolved parameter values, exploring the cultural ramifications of three different social learning mechanisms.
Results:  Our results show that that simple forms of social learning such as local enhancement, can generate traditional differences in the context of skill learning. In contrast, we find cumulative cultural change is supported by observational learning, but not local or stimulus enhancement, which supports the idea that advanced cognitive abilities are important for generating this cultural phenomenon in the context of skill learning.
Conclusions:  Our results help to explain the observation that animal cultures are widespread, but cumulative cultural change might be rare.
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Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Number of pages15
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Volume17
DOIs
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2017

    Research areas

  • Multi-scale approach, Agent-based model, Mechanism specificity, Traditions, Cumulative culture, Self-organization

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