Limits...
Cognitive requirements of cumulative culture: teaching is useful but not essential.

Zwirner E, Thornton A - Sci Rep (2015)

Bottom Line: Teaching chains produced more robust baskets, but neither teaching nor imitation were strictly necessary for cumulative improvements; emulation chains generated equivalent increases in efficacy despite exhibiting relatively low copying fidelity.People used social information strategically, choosing different materials to make their baskets if the previous basket in the chain performed poorly.Instead, the roots of human cultural prowess may lie in the interplay of strategic social learning with other cognitive traits including the ability to reverse engineer artefacts through causal reasoning.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE, UK.

ABSTRACT
The cumulative nature of human culture is unique in the animal kingdom. Progressive improvements in tools and technologies have facilitated humanity's spread across the globe and shaped human evolution, but the cognitive mechanisms enabling cultural change remain unclear. Here we show that, contrary to theoretical predictions, cumulative improvements in tools are not dependent on specialised, high-fidelity social learning mechanisms. Participants were tasked with building a basket to carry as much rice as possible using a set of everyday materials and divided into treatment groups with differing opportunities to learn asocially, imitate, receive teaching or emulate by examining baskets made by previous chain members. Teaching chains produced more robust baskets, but neither teaching nor imitation were strictly necessary for cumulative improvements; emulation chains generated equivalent increases in efficacy despite exhibiting relatively low copying fidelity. People used social information strategically, choosing different materials to make their baskets if the previous basket in the chain performed poorly. Together, these results suggest that cumulative culture does not rest on high-fidelity social learning mechanisms alone. Instead, the roots of human cultural prowess may lie in the interplay of strategic social learning with other cognitive traits including the ability to reverse engineer artefacts through causal reasoning.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

(a) Mean number of changes in materials ( ± S.E.) at each step in the chain across the four treatments (b) Number of changes in materials as a function of the mass of rice carried by the previous basket in Asocial (squares) Emulation (triangles) and Teaching groups (crosses). Lines are predicted means ± S.E. from GLMM analysis.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4660383&req=5

f3: (a) Mean number of changes in materials ( ± S.E.) at each step in the chain across the four treatments (b) Number of changes in materials as a function of the mass of rice carried by the previous basket in Asocial (squares) Emulation (triangles) and Teaching groups (crosses). Lines are predicted means ± S.E. from GLMM analysis.

Mentions: The number of materials used to build each basket did not change significantly within groups (effect of generation: GLMM: χ21 = 0.23, p = 0.632) and did not differ between treatments (χ23 = 3.44, p = 0.343). However, treatments differed significantly in the variability of materials used within chains, with baskets in emulation chains showing more changes in material usage from one step in the chain to the next compared to other treatments (GLMM, effect of Treatment: χ23 = 17.94, p = 0.002; Fig. 3a; excluding Emulation chains the other treatments did not differ: χ22 = 3.18, p = 0.224). Moreover, in Asocial, Emulation and Teaching chains (where participants had information about previous baskets’ efficacy), participants made a greater number of changes in materials when the previous basket performed poorly (GLMM treatment*rice carried by previous basket: χ22 = 13.18, p = 0.001; Fig. 3b).


Cognitive requirements of cumulative culture: teaching is useful but not essential.

Zwirner E, Thornton A - Sci Rep (2015)

(a) Mean number of changes in materials ( ± S.E.) at each step in the chain across the four treatments (b) Number of changes in materials as a function of the mass of rice carried by the previous basket in Asocial (squares) Emulation (triangles) and Teaching groups (crosses). Lines are predicted means ± S.E. from GLMM analysis.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4660383&req=5

f3: (a) Mean number of changes in materials ( ± S.E.) at each step in the chain across the four treatments (b) Number of changes in materials as a function of the mass of rice carried by the previous basket in Asocial (squares) Emulation (triangles) and Teaching groups (crosses). Lines are predicted means ± S.E. from GLMM analysis.
Mentions: The number of materials used to build each basket did not change significantly within groups (effect of generation: GLMM: χ21 = 0.23, p = 0.632) and did not differ between treatments (χ23 = 3.44, p = 0.343). However, treatments differed significantly in the variability of materials used within chains, with baskets in emulation chains showing more changes in material usage from one step in the chain to the next compared to other treatments (GLMM, effect of Treatment: χ23 = 17.94, p = 0.002; Fig. 3a; excluding Emulation chains the other treatments did not differ: χ22 = 3.18, p = 0.224). Moreover, in Asocial, Emulation and Teaching chains (where participants had information about previous baskets’ efficacy), participants made a greater number of changes in materials when the previous basket performed poorly (GLMM treatment*rice carried by previous basket: χ22 = 13.18, p = 0.001; Fig. 3b).

Bottom Line: Teaching chains produced more robust baskets, but neither teaching nor imitation were strictly necessary for cumulative improvements; emulation chains generated equivalent increases in efficacy despite exhibiting relatively low copying fidelity.People used social information strategically, choosing different materials to make their baskets if the previous basket in the chain performed poorly.Instead, the roots of human cultural prowess may lie in the interplay of strategic social learning with other cognitive traits including the ability to reverse engineer artefacts through causal reasoning.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE, UK.

ABSTRACT
The cumulative nature of human culture is unique in the animal kingdom. Progressive improvements in tools and technologies have facilitated humanity's spread across the globe and shaped human evolution, but the cognitive mechanisms enabling cultural change remain unclear. Here we show that, contrary to theoretical predictions, cumulative improvements in tools are not dependent on specialised, high-fidelity social learning mechanisms. Participants were tasked with building a basket to carry as much rice as possible using a set of everyday materials and divided into treatment groups with differing opportunities to learn asocially, imitate, receive teaching or emulate by examining baskets made by previous chain members. Teaching chains produced more robust baskets, but neither teaching nor imitation were strictly necessary for cumulative improvements; emulation chains generated equivalent increases in efficacy despite exhibiting relatively low copying fidelity. People used social information strategically, choosing different materials to make their baskets if the previous basket in the chain performed poorly. Together, these results suggest that cumulative culture does not rest on high-fidelity social learning mechanisms alone. Instead, the roots of human cultural prowess may lie in the interplay of strategic social learning with other cognitive traits including the ability to reverse engineer artefacts through causal reasoning.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus