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The psychological reach of culture in animals’ lives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Culture – the totality of traditions acquired in a community by social learning from others – has increasingly been found to be pervasive not only in humans’ but in many animals’ lives. Compared to learning on one’s own initiative, learning from others can be very much safer and more efficient, as the wisdom already accumulated by others is assimilated. This article offers an overview of often surprising recent discoveries charting the reach of culture across an ever-expanding diversity of species as well an extensive variety of behavioral domains, and throughout an animal’s life. The psychological reach of culture is reflected in the knowledge and skills an animal thus acquires, via an array of different social learning processes. Social learning is often further guided by a suite of adaptive psychological biases such as conformity and learning from optimal models. In humans, cumulative cultural change over generations has generated the complex cultural phenomena we witness today. Animal cultures have been thought to lack this cumulative power, but recent findings suggest that elementary versions may be important in animals’ lives.
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
VolumeOnlineFirst
Early online date27 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Apr 2021

    Research areas

  • Culture, Traditions, Social learning, Cultural evolution, Cumulative culture

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