Essay about Testing Chimpanzees for Social Learning Analysis

Essay about Testing Chimpanzees for Social Learning Analysis

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Understanding the cumulative process of cultural evolution across species, has been in the focus of recent research. This interest is motivated by the search for the evolutionary origins of the human capacity for culture that is also apparent in many other studied species such as wolves, dolphins, guppies and apes (Tomasello et al., 1993). Research in cross cultural patterns of social learning brings us closer to understanding the underlying aspects of cognition that varies across species and thus is responsible for the cultural differentiation among different species (Byrne et al., 2004).
The underlying process of cultural differentiation is named cultural transmission (or enculturation) that is present when animals acquire traits and skills that they would not normally learn from individuals of their own species who raise them (van Schaik & Burkart, 2011). This ability to transmit information onto successive generations depends on innovation, creating novel responses to the environment and the ability to imitate other’s behavior (Lehmann et al., 2010).
Although the definition of culture is widely debated among disciplines, Whiten et al. (1999) suggests that it is defined in contrast with the transmission of behavior through genes. He proposes that when cultural traditions are passed on to generations by some kind of social learning, culture emerges. Therefore, the capacity to imitate others and solve novel problems allows animals to create culture that is “a population-level characteristic” (Whiten et al., 1999, pp.2). Well-known examples of cultural transmission are the sweet potato washing Japanese macaques and different dialects of bird songs (Byrne et al., 2004).
The most significant and extensive cultural variation has b...

... middle of paper ...

... 209-216.
Lehmann, L., Feldman, M. W., & Kaeuffer, R. (2010). Cumulative cultural dynamics and the coevolution of cultural innovation and transmission: an ESS model for panmictic and structured populations. Journal of Evolutionary Biology,23(11), 2356-2369.
Tomasello, M., Kruger, A. C., & Ratner, H. H. (1993). Cultural learning.Behavioral and brain sciences, 16, 495-495.
van Schaik, C. P., & Burkart, J. M. (2011). Social learning and evolution: the cultural intelligence hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 366(1567), 1008-1016.
Whiten, A., Goodall, J., McGrew, W. C., Nishida, T., Reynolds, V., Sugiyama, Y., ... & Boesch, C. (1999). Cultures in chimpanzees. Nature, 399(6737), 682-685.
Whiten, A., Horner, V., & De Waal, F. B. (2005). Conformity to cultural norms of tool use in chimpanzees. Nature, 437(7059), 737-740.

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