Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

The Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology of Social Learning and Culture

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Social learning allows for the transmission of information between individuals and, potentially, across generations. In addition to increasing the efficiency by which new behaviors are learned it can also facilitate the propagation of behavioral traditions and, ultimately, culture. In the first half of this chapter we describe the social learning mechanisms that define how information is transmitted, under what circumstances social learning is advantageous, and provide an evolutionary perspective by illustrating different species' propensities for social learning. Through the second half of this chapter we compare the behavioral traditions observed among animals in the wild. We discuss the defining features of human culture and whether any animals, other than ourselves, can be considered "cultural." We conclude that although human material culture was long thought to be a defining hallmark of our species, current reports from both the wild and captivity have begun to dispel the notion that we are the only cultural beings.



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Comparative Evolutionary Psychology
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940943
ISBN (Print)9780199738182
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2012

    Research areas

  • Cultural transmission, Culture, Cumulative culture, Social learning mechanisms, Social learning strategies, Teaching

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

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Cultural evolution in animals

    Whiten, A., Nov 2019, In : Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 50, p. 27-48

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  2. Twenty questions about cultural cognitive gadgets

    Whiten, A., 12 Sep 2019, In : The Behavioral and brain sciences. 42, 186.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Social learning: peering deeper into ape culture

    Whiten, A., 9 Sep 2019, In : Current Biology. 29, 17, p. R845-R847

    Research output: Contribution to journalShort survey

ID: 266957391