What Is Human Culture

Human Culture: What is Culture?

What exactly is culture? The term “culture” may signify many different things to various people. The term “enjoyment” relates to the appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food for certain people. An example of this would be a large number of bacteria or other microorganisms growing in a nutritional medium in a laboratory Petri dish, which would be of interest to biologists. Culture, on the other hand, is defined by anthropologists and other behavioral scientists as the entire spectrum of learnt human behavior patterns.

Tylor, entitledPrimitive Culture, which was published in the United Kingdom.

Women are both possessors and creators of wealth.

Culture is a tremendous human tool for survival, but it is also a delicate phenomena that has to be protected.

  1. Human culture is responsible for the development of written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made structures.
  2. In order to avoid this, archaeologists cannot actively excavate cultural material during their digs.
  3. Different Cultures are layered on top of one another.
  4. The most evident is the collection of cultural traditions that distinguishes your particular community from others.
  5. The majority of people who share your culture do so because they learned it through their parents and other family members who are also of your culture, according to statistics.
  6. It is common for individuals who live in complicated, diverse communities, where they have come from many various regions of the world, to preserve a great deal of their original cultural traditions.
  7. Subcultures are distinguished from the rest of society by the cultural qualities that they have in common.
  8. A common identity, cuisine tradition, dialect or language, and other cultural qualities are shared by members of each of these subcultures, which derive from their shared ancestral history and experience.
  9. For the most part, this is still the case with German Americans and Irish Americans living in the United States today.

The vast majority of them identify themselves first and foremost as Americans. They also consider themselves to be a part of the nation’s cultural mainstream, which they believe they are.

These Cuban Americanwomen in Miami, Floridahave a shared subcultureidentity that is reinforcedthrough their language,food, and other traditions

Universals of culture make up the third tier of the culture pyramid. These are learned behavioral patterns that are shared by the whole human race. People all around the world possess certain basic characteristics, regardless of where they reside. Examples of such “humancultural” characteristics include the following:

1. communicating with a verbal language consisting of alimited set of sounds and grammatical rules for constructing sentences
2. using age and gender to classify people (e.g.,teenager, senior citizen, woman, man)
3. classifying people based on marriage and descentrelationships and having kinship terms to refer tothem (e.g., wife,mother, uncle, cousin)
4. raising children in some sort of family setting
5. having a sexual division of labor (e.g., men’s workversus women’s work)
6. having a concept of privacy
7. having rules to regulate sexual behavior
8. distinguishing between good and bad behavior
9. having some sort of body ornamentation
10. making jokes and playing games
11. having art
12. having some sort of leadership roles for theimplementation of community decisions

While all civilizations have these and potentially many more fundamental characteristics, individual cultures have created their own unique ways of carrying out or expressing them in a variety of diverse ways. People in deaf subcultures, for example, typically use their hands to communicate with sign language instead of using spoken language to express themselves. However, sign languages, like spoken languages, have their own set of grammatical rules. Culture and Society are intertwined. The terms culture and society are not synonymous.

  • Humans are not the only creatures that live in groups or form communities.
  • Societies, on the other hand, are groupings of people who interact with one another, either directly or indirectly, in the case of humans.
  • Despite the fact that human civilizations and cultures are not the same thing, they are intricately linked since culture is generated and transferred to others within a given society.
  • They are the results of people engaging with one another that are always changing and evolving.
  • In the event if you were the last human on the planet, there would be no need for language or for any form of governance.
Non-human culture?This orangutan mother isusing a specially preparedstick to “fish out” food froma crevice.She learned thisskill and is now teaching itto her child who is hangingon her shoulder and intentlywatching.

When it comes to whether or not we are the only species that produces and utilizes culture, there is some disagreement among behavioral scientists on the subject. The answer to this question is contingent on how narrowly culture is understood in this context. If culture is defined broadly to include a collection of acquired behavior patterns, it becomes evident that humans are not alone in the process of producing and utilizing culture. Many other animal species pass on their knowledge to their offspring in order to ensure their own survival.

  1. In most cases, wildchimpanzee moms educate their young about several hundred different foods and therapeutic plants.
  2. When men reach the age of adolescence, they learn how to hunt from adults.
  3. Chimpanzees must even acquire fundamental skills such as how to have sexual relations in order to survive.
  4. Like humans, they are all taught patterns of behavior that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The information on this page was last updated on Friday, May 26, 2006. Dennis O’Neil is the owner of the copyright 200 2-2006. All intellectual property rights are retained. Credits for the illustration

Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force (Published 2010)

Like any other species, human populations are influenced by natural selection processes such as starvation, illness, and environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. A new force is beginning to come into view. People have unwittingly shaped their own development over the last 20,000 years or so, according to this theory, which is unexpected to many people. Human culture, which may be broadly described as any taught behavior, including technology, is the driving force. Due to the fact that culture has long appeared to serve the opposite function, the proof of its activity is all the more startling.

  • Culture was considered to have slowed the rate of human development, or perhaps brought it to a standstill, in the distant past as a result of this buffering function.
  • Despite the fact that it protects individuals from other influences, culture appears to be a significant force of natural selection in and of itself.
  • Kevin N.
  • “Some practitioners have argued that gene-culture co-evolution could be the dominant mode of human evolution,” they wrote.
  • Andrews in Scotland, Dr.
  • The notion that genes and culture co-evolve has been around for several decades, but it has only just begun to gain traction among believers.
  • Richerson), who have been debating the interplay of genes and culture in determining human development for years, are two of the most prominent proponents.

Boyd explained.

The lactose tolerance observed in many northern Europeans, according to Dr.

Richerson, was the strongest evidence available to them that culture is a selection factor.

A cultural practice — consuming raw milk — is now widely accepted as having resulted in an evolutionary alteration in the human genome.

It’s possible that the additional nourishment was of such significant benefit that individuals who were able to digest milk had more surviving children, and the genetic modification spread throughout the community.

In the last several years, researchers have been able to scan the whole human genome for the signals of genes that are undergoing selection through natural selection.

On the basis of the scans, it is estimated that up to 10 percent of the genome, or around 2000 genes, is under selective pressure.

The kind of genes that are identified by genome scans can be used to infer the reasons for these selection factors, which can be useful to biologists.

However, they may be classified into broad categories of likely function.

Some of them are engaged in the immune system, and it’s likely that they grew more widespread as a result of the protection they gave against sickness that they supplied.

Image courtesy of Radu Sigheti/Reuters Other genes, on the other hand, appear to have been preferred as a result of cultural shifts.

Amylase is an enzyme found in saliva that aids in the digestion of starch.

Not only have genetic modifications that permit lactose tolerance been discovered in Europeans, but they have also been discovered in three African pastoral cultures.

Many genes for taste and smell exhibit indications of selecting pressure, which may be related to the shift in food sources as people transitioned from a nomadic to a sedentary way of life over time.

These changes might be a result of the shrinking weight of the human skeleton that appears to have accompanied the transition from nomadic to sedentary life, which began around 15,000 years ago.

While the exact function of these genes is unknown, Dr.

The aggregation of people and the living in bigger communities, he believes, may be a contributing factor to some of these developments.

In order to confirm that a gene has truly been subjected to selection, biologists must do further experiments, such as comparing the chosen and unselected variants of the gene to see how they differ from one another.

Stoneking and his colleagues have achieved this goal.

It is termed the EDAR gene.

A variant version of the EDAR gene is also quite common in Africans and Europeans.

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Possibly having thicker hair was a benefit in itself, since it helped to retain heat in the frigid Siberian climate.

It is possible that the gene functions by activating a gene regulator that regulates both the immune system and hair development, which is a third scenario.

Or it’s possible that all three elements were at play.

Stoneking said of the situation.

As a result, it demonstrates the potential of selected signals in terms of bringing to light significant events in human prehistory, such as the dispersal of modern people from their original habitat in northeast Africa and their adaptation to new settings.

Stoneking stated, “that is the ultimate aim.” “I’m coming from an anthropological standpoint, and we’re interested in knowing what the tale is.” When it came to archaic people, civilization changed at a glacial pace.

Acheulean stone tool set that followed it lasted for 1.5 million years, according to the latest estimates.

Accordingly, it is possible that human evolution has been speeding up in recent years as a result of the influence of fast adjustments in cultural values.

The genome scans that are used to screen for selection have significant drawbacks.

There are also likely to be a large number of false positives among the genes that appear to be preferred.

According to mathematical models of gene-culture interaction, this type of natural selection has the potential to be exceptionally fast.

Culture has risen to the level of a natural selection force, and if it proves to be a significant one, human evolution may be speeding up as individuals adjust to the demands of their own creation.

A Cultural Leap at the Dawn of Humanity

Rick Potts estimated that it would take three years to uncover everything at Olorgesailie, the now-dry basin of an ancient Kenyan lake, when he first started digging there. That was in 1985, and Potts is now in the midst of his fourth decade of archaeological exploration. It’s a good thing he decided to stay. Over the last few years, his team has discovered a slew of unexpected discoveries that suggest that human behavior and culture developed to an incredible degree of sophistication long before anyone expected it—almost at the very beginning of our species, Homo sapiens.

  • These lumps of black and red rock had been processed to produce pigments, indicating the presence of symbolic thought and representation, according to the archaeologists.
  • The Olorgesailie tools are believed to be between 305,000 and 320,000 years old.
  • Scientists used to believe that the latter milestone occurred much later than the former, around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, when our species migrated into Europe and experienced a “creative explosion” that resulted in the evocative cave art of Lascaux and Chauvet.
  • The recent discoveries at Olorgesailie have pushed the timeline even further back.
  • That is consistent with the age of the earliest known human fossils, which have recently been discovered in other parts of Africa.

In the words of Lyn Wadley, a professor at the University of Witwatersrand, it is a “textbook example of good archaeological practice.” Acheulean handaxes—large, teardrop-shaped tools made by chipping away at cores of stone—were thought to be the majority of the tools discovered at Olorgesailie for a long time after their discovery.

  • It is estimated that they began doing this at Olorgesailie 1.2 million years ago and continued until at least 500,000 years ago.
  • As Potts points out, “the idea of a single technology lasting that long is almost inconceivable” in an age where the phones we carry around with us can become obsolete in a year is almost inconceivable.
  • These were smaller, more precisely shaped, more specialized, and more diverse in their composition.
  • Potts’ team began discovering these at Olorgesailie in the early 2000s, and Alan Deino of the Berkeley Geochronology Center determined how old they are by analyzing the levels of radioactive isotopes of argon and uranium in the samples.
  • He came to the conclusion that these tools had completely replaced the Acheulean designs at least 305,000 years ago, according to the evidence.
  • But from where are they coming from?
  • It appears that the tools came from sources up to 100 kilometers away, based on their chemical composition.

Instead, they are likely to have participated in long-distance trade networks, receiving obsidian from people who lived in distant locations and exchanging it for other goods in exchange for other goods.

” “However, we have thousands of pieces in this one location that is smaller than the majority of people’s kitchens,” says the curator.

Another Olorgesailie discovery, colored rocks, can be explained in part by these networks.

Two lumps of iron minerals were found in another container, both of which had been deliberately ground with a sharp, chiseling tool in order to extract the red powder contained within.

“Pigments are frequently regarded as the source of complex symbolic behavior,” Potts explains.

Still, she notes that the colored rocks, like the obsidian, came from distant sources, which says something about their value.

“If you’re thinking about a way to signal at a distance that you’re not an enemy, having something red on your person is a good way to do it.” “These findings mark a step forward in our understanding of the origin of complex cultures,” says Daniela Rosso from the University of Bordeaux.

The Olorgesailie specimens, once again, are even older, and the earliest known examples of clearly worked pigments.

Between 500,000 and 615,000 years ago, Acheulean technology still dominated at Olorgesailie.

“In the late Acheulean, we see the precursors of what became crystallized in the Middle Stone Age,” says Potts.

But what?

When people were still making Acheulean hand-axes, the landscape was dominated by large grazing mammals like elephants and giant baboons.

“This shows that there’s something bigger going on than just changes in the hominins,” says Potts.

Around 500,000 years ago, the relatively stable lake basin at Olorgesailie turned into an etch-a-sketch landscape that was continuously remodeled by earthquakes.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this was the world in which modern human adaptability arose—one of unpredictable weather and unreliable resources.

“It spreads the risk over a much wider landscape,” she says.

They don’t have crops or animals.

It’s part of a human way of life.” “In view of this, the movement of stone and pigments could indicate increased interaction with immediately surrounding groups,” saysPolly Weissner, an anthropologist at the University of Utah.

“Could these sorts of behaviors been the leading edge of the origin of our species?” asks Potts.

But given the antiquity of the Olorgesailie finds, Potts now wonders if the emergence of complex behavior was “really the thing that distinguished the earliest members of our gene pool from other hominins?” Brooks agrees.

“But now it seems that the behavior and the morphology came along together.

But he cautions that the emergence of the Middle Stone Age “was neither straightforward nor uniform across space and time.” In different parts of Africa, it varies in when it first appears, how much it overlaps with the older Acheulean tech, and whether it occurs together withHomo sapiensfossils.

What’s going on there is simply representative of these changes in behavior.” For yet, Olorgesailie has little to say about a vital window of time between 320,000 and 500,000 years ago.

“It’s the moment everyone should be looking at,” Potts adds. “And we have data coming that fills up that gap.”

Uniquely Human: Understanding Our Cultural Evolution

Humans are not the only species capable of using tools and forming sophisticated social organizations; we are not the only species capable of doing so. The question is, what happened throughout the evolution of Homo sapiens that made our species distinct from the other hominid species? The ability to generate culture through social learning—the ability to both teach and learn from others—has been identified as an evolutionary turning point in human history by a number of ideas. Coevolution of Genes and Culture When Marcus Feldman began his doctoral studies in biology at Stanford in 1971, there was a heated debate raging over the publications of Arthur Jensen and William Shockley, scientists who contended that differences in IQ measurements between racial groups were almost entirely due to genetics.

Producing tools like this 300,000-year-old wooden spear from Schöningen, Germany, necessitates the learning and maintenance of complex combinations of knowledge and skills by individuals and groups, demonstrating the importance of social learning in cultural expansion, explains cognitive archaeologist Miriam Haidle.

courtesy of Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege/P.

Feldman is now a professor of biology at Stanford University.

According to Feldman, who spoke at the 2019 International Convention of Psychological Science (ICPS) in Paris as part of an Integrative Science Symposium, “the two of us sat down to attempt to investigate if cultural transmission, rather than genetic transmission, might explain our high heritability.” Described as the “founding fathers” of the fields of cultural evolutionary research and gene-culture coevolution, Feldman and Cavalli-Sforza began applying quantitative mathematical models from the field of population genetics to understand how a combination of genetics, culture, and behavior contributes to shaping human evolution.

  1. They released a seminal book, Cultural Transmission and Evolution: A Quantitative Approach, in 1981 that laid the groundwork for a new discipline of quantitative cultural evolutionary theory, which was established in 1982.
  2. Cavalli-Sforza founded the Human Genome Variety Initiative in the 1990s, which is a collaborative multinational project whose goal is to better understand the richness of human genetic diversity and its causes.
  3. The initiative has offered an unprecedented chance to investigate human evolution and genetic variety, and Feldman laments that the team was not able to acquire a more full and representative panel of samples as a result.
  4. Feldman demonstrated how marital norms and taboos may have an impact on the incidence of hereditary illnesses in one example of the impact of a cultural phenomena on population genetics.
  5. “That is, the pattern of DNA variation is dictated by a cultural decision,” Feldman added.
  6. Feldman, on the other hand, warns researchers to be cautious about how DNA variation may be manipulated.
  7. Furthermore, “it’s being done on a continuous basis, 20 or 30 stories a day,” Feldman said.
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Researchers can get insight into the cognitive processes and cultural practices of ancient humans by interacting with the tools and materials that they would have used in their everyday lives, according to the field of experimental archaeology.

Excavating CultureAlthough we have little evidence of our early human predecessors’ behavior, we do have archeological artifacts dating back as far as 3.3 million years that can be used to reconstruct their lives.


Stone tools and other material artifacts can provide a rich window into the cognitive capabilities as well as the cultural practices of our prehistoric ancestors.

Culture arises through the development of three aspects, as stated by Haidle and a broad collection of coauthors ranging from archaeologists to psychology scientists in a study published in the Journal of Anthropological Science in 2015.

Human hands, for example, allow for cultural evolution that is distinct from that of a dolphin’s flippers or the wings of a bat.

And last but not least, there is the historical-social dimension, which is particularly crucial for the development of cultural expression.

However, while there is evidence to suggest that certain other animal species are capable of some elementary features of culture, such as employing basic tools, the historical-social dimension of human culture is exceptional in its development.

In addition, she said that “there is an increase in social and material interaction, which is quite essential since you cannot learn anything on your own.” For example, the manufacture of clothes demonstrates the necessity of social learning in the process of cultural growth.

Even in this modest environment, raw material procurement, tool fabrication, and application necessitate the acquisition of a wide range of skills and knowledge, which must be acquired and maintained over time.

For at least 30,000 years, tailor-made clothing sewed with eyes needles has been a part of human culture, indicating additional developments in materials and equipment, as well as processes for acquiring and receiving training in their use.

People in cultural species do not repeat the same actions over and over again; instead, information is communicated within and across groups and passed on to future generations of individuals.

Learners Who Are Self-Conscious Professor Henrike Moll of psychology at the University of Southern California is interested in the transmission of knowledge across cultures.

In fact, Moll contends that children are self-conscious learners rather than blank slates or passive sponges that just absorb whatever knowledge happens to be present in their surroundings.

“You can notice this very early on in youngsters when they engage in what is known as social reference,” she explained at the ICPS conference.

Despite the fact that other creatures are capable of social learning, humans are the only ones that are really good at it.

“We think that there are different kinds of social learning processes that are unique, and one of the most intriguing ones is the case of teaching,” she stated.

Most 4-year-olds failed to recognize that they could use water as a tool to extract a peanut from a long thin plastic tube when instructed to do so.

But when the identical film was played before the exercise with a teaching frame (“Look, I want to show you something!”), the majority of youngsters were able to complete the task successfully.

The findings of a series of studies conducted by Moll and colleagues, which are presently under evaluation, indicate that even 4-year-olds have an intrinsic awareness of the importance of teaching and how to select material that is most conducive to teaching others.

“Hummingbirds can fly backward,” for example, and one episodic fact related to a single animal (“This hummingbird is flying backward,” for example).

They appeared to realize intuitively that providing generic knowledge, which everyone may benefit from, is a critical component of educational endeavors.

The reason for this, according to Moll and her team of researchers, is that youngsters comprehend that the purpose of education is for them to acquire—and maybe further propagate—knowledge that is both broad and objective.

The Epidemiology of RepresentationsAPS Fellow Dan Sperber is a social and cognitive scientist at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris.

In such a flow, patterns arise that are relatively stable, despite the fact that the water is constantly changing around them.

Last but not least, he asserted that cultures are born out of microscale interactions between individuals—whether they be couples, families, or simply a few people who live in a particular location.

“Culture is not a thing, nor is it a collection of things, nor is it a system of things,” Sperber explained.

As part of his research, Sperber developed a framework called theepidemiology of representations, which he uses to describe the distribution and flow of mental representations in populations.

As with epidemic vectors, the mental representations that make up culture can change and shift as they are passed from person to person throughout the course of the disease’s transmission.

” These alterations, on the other hand, are not random.

The way mental representations are communicated across persons does not mean that they are perfectly replicated or reproduced in their entirety.

“As an example, consider your friend who makes a delicious apple pie,” Sperber explained.

“You’re going to extract whatever, if anything, is relevant to you as you interpret it on the basis of your own interests and ideas,” Sperber explained in his lecture.

References M.

Haidle, M.

Collard are among those who have contributed to this work (2015).

In the Journal of Anthropological Sciences, volume 93, pages 43–70, H.

The evidence for the transformative cultural intelligence hypothesis comes from the problem-solving of young children.

In this article, N.

Rosenberg, J.

Pritchard, J.

Weber, H.



W.Feldman discuss the role of adipose tissue in the development of adipose tissue (2002).

Human populations have a distinct genetic structure. Applied Physics Letters, 298 (5602), 2381–2385. Sperber, D., et al (1985). In the direction of an epidemiology of representations, anthropology and psychology are merging. Man, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 73–89.

Evolution and Human Culture

“Evolution and Human Cultureis a seminal work that brings together philosophy, science, and the arts in a unique and entertaining read that will pique your interest. Culture, art, morality, and evolution are brought together in a remarkable way in this work, which is unlike any other.” — Kathryn Francis, Fellow at the CogNovo Institute at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom It “provides a very well written account of evolutionary theory across the spectrum of relevant disciplines, addressing the most challenging questions that face humankind.” “Evolution and Human Cultureprovides a very well written account of evolutionary theory across the spectrum of relevant disciplines, addressing the most challenging questions that face humankind.” Professor of theater and consciousness studies at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe, Ph.D.

“Between the age-old outposts maintained by the humanities and the biological sciences, there is a huge wilderness where culture and biology combine to produce a thick and intertangled forest of interconnected trees.

Tague’sEvolutionHuman Culturethat you should consult if you get the sensation that you need to leave your secure and comfortable outpost and journey into this forest in order to gain a true understanding of the unique role that culture has played in the evolution of the human species.

He has charted the routes taken by anthropologists, primatologists, evolutionary psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers who have traveled to the places where human culture and human biology collide and interconnect.

Professor Tague, himself an intrepid explorer, provides his own perspective on the importance of culture to human evolution — that culture emerged as a means of creating and maintaining the norms that enable us to be so highly cooperative — but only after laying out the full spectrum of perspectives in such a clear and concise manner that he enables his reader to entertain interpretations that differ from his own.” Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the Pratt Institute is Christopher X J.

Jensen, Ph.D.

Why Study Science in Human Culture?: Science in Human Culture Program

In the Research in Human Culture Program, undergraduate students have the option of pursuing an adjunct major or a minor topic that will better educate them to deal with the effect of science, medicine, and technology on society—as well as on their own personal life. Pre-medical students, science majors, and engineering students who are interested in thinking beyond the problem sets assigned in their specialized courses, as well as students in the humanities and social sciences who wish to overcome the division of knowledge that accompanied the rise of modern science, are all welcome to participate in the program.

Particularly appealing to students who reject the notion that human knowledge can be neatly separated into disciplinary categories is the major’s argument against disciplinary division. The following are some of the questions that students in the program attempt to answer:

  • What has caused us to become so reliant on scientific explanations
  • In what ways has scientific knowledge been transformed into revolutionary new technologies—ranging from the atomic bomb to prenatal genetic testing—and how has this occurred? Describe the many ways in which different locales and individuals across the world have functioned as incubators for scientific innovation and conceptual breakthroughs. How has the advancement of medical research changed the interaction between physicians and patients, as well as the link between illnesses and surroundings
  • The ramifications of our evolving understanding of space, time, and biological evolution for our religious beliefs are discussed. Describe the ways in which science has contributed to (and hindered) our understanding of human difference, particularly racial and sexual diversity. What causes the effect of different specialist domains to be so unevenly distributed throughout the world

What has caused us to become so reliant on scientific theories? I’m interested in how scientific knowledge has been transformed into revolutionary new technologies, such as nuclear weapons or genetic testing of embryos. Describe the many ways in which different places and individuals throughout the world have functioned as incubators for scientific innovation and conceptual breakthroughs; When it comes to sickness and the environment, how has the advancement of medical research changed the interaction between physicians and patients?

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What role has science had in strengthening (or weakening) our sense of human uniqueness, particularly racial and sexual difference; Specifically, why is the worldwide influence of various specialist domains so disparate?

Uniquely Human – Culture and Psychology

The fact is that, while we humans are not the only species to display culture, we are reliant on it in ways that no other species is, and no other species exhibits the cultural virtuosity and adaptability that human people do. When it comes to animals, innovation transmission (the combination of two or more discrete pieces into wholly new tools or routines) occurs regularly among peers and between generations of the same group, but not always across different groups of the same species. Furthermore, cultural innovation does not appear to occur among non-human animals, despite the fact that it is a characteristic of the evolution of human culture.

People who live in human social groupings learn about culture since they are born into it.

This is the process by which we get ‘enculturated.’ Some researchers believe that the human capacity for cultural learning began to emerge around 500 000–170 000 years ago (Lind et al., 2003), while others believe that the predisposition for social cognition, which facilitates social learning, dates back even further to the time when we split from an ancient ancestor (Lind et al., 2003).

In the opinion of some experts, the most persuasive evidence for human culture has just appeared in the last 100,000 years (Tattersall, 2015).

Describing and explaining which aspects of culture are unique to humans is a difficult and contentious task that requires collaboration across disciplines.

We shall confine our discussion to three areas where there is general agreement on the uniqueness of human culture as it relates to psychology in this introduction text: cognition, collaboration, and cumulative learning.


The fact is that, while we humans are not the only species to display culture, we are reliant on it in ways that no other species is, and no other species exhibits the cultural virtuosity and adaptability that human people do. Among peers and across generations of the same group in the animal world, innovation transmission (the combination of two or more discrete pieces into an altogether new tool or technique) is common; but, it does not always occur between different groups of a species. Furthermore, cultural innovation does not appear to occur among non-human animals, despite the fact that it is a characteristic of the development of human cultures.

  • People who live in human social groupings have the opportunity to learn about culture.
  • ‘Enculturation’ is the process through which we get socialized.
  • In the opinion of some experts, conclusive evidence for human culture has just appeared in the last 100,000 years (Tattersall, 2015).
  • It is difficult, cross-disciplinary, and contentious to describe and explain which aspects of culture are distinctively human.


Any group’s capacity to come together and work toward a shared objective is essential to its existence. There is considerable evidence that nonhuman primates (our genetic counterparts) collaborate, but that this cooperation is confined to family or partners, with just a few known occurrences of collaboration with members of other groups (for example, strangers) (Melis and Semmann, 2010). When it comes to completing complicated tasks, cooperating with strangers appears to be a characteristically human action.


People have a unique ability to engage in social learning, as discussed earlier in this section (Boyd, Richerson, and Henrich, 2011; Hermann et al., 2007; Tomasello, 1999), in addition to other psychological advantages such as memory, which allows us to remember who has helped us and who we have helped (Hauser et al., 2009; Melis and Semmann, 2010).

Perhaps most crucially, we are able to convey all of this knowledge to other members of our group, which means that as an individual, you may earn a reputation for being a helpful or a reputation for being a loafer, depending on your behavior (more about this in Chapter 11).


The emergence of cooperation may also have occurred as a consequence of external forces (for example, intergroup conflict, climate change, and competition) that favored the establishment of big groupings. Following the findings of Bowles and colleagues (2013), it is hypothesized that rivalry with other groups caused social changes, and that groups that were better at collaborating were more likely to survive. Furthermore, our ancient forefathers were more likely to be prey than predators, and being a part of a big group provided some protection from predators and other threats (HartSussman, 2009; Henrich, 2016).

It is his contention that humans required the use of complicated communication in order to sustain social cohesiveness and unity amongst members of the group.


As human societies grew in size, humans formed social rules or norms that guided their behavior (RichersonBoyd, 2008). The social norms that have developed inside communities, according to Henrich (2016), are the result of our particular cognitive capacity for social learning (e.g., to learn from someone else). Humans learn what conduct is acceptable through watching a model of suitable behavior, and those who do not adhere to these social conventions are frequently penalized as a result (punished).

  1. This idea appears to be supported by research conducted on newborns that are less than a year old.
  2. People begin assessing the activities of others as early as three months of age, giving positive values to helpful, cooperative behaviors and negative values to damaging or selfish behaviors (Hamlin et al., 2007; HamlinWynn, 2011), and this evaluation begins as early as three months of age.
  3. Using the Public Goods Game, an economic experiment, for example, Rand and colleagues were able to explore cooperation and competition in a cooperative setting (Rand, 2016).
  4. Early studies suggested that individuals who made their contributions as quickly as possible contributed more to the general public’s well-being (greater cooperation).

‘Going with your gut’ appears to be associated with higher collaboration in particular settings, social contexts, and social norms, according to the research (Henrich, 2016).

Cumulative Learning

Even though animals can transmit cultural transmissions, we learned earlier in the chapter that only humans appear to be capable of accumulating and changing cultural changes over time, resulting in behaviors that no single person could possibly have learned over the course of a lifetime of trial and error. Collective cultural learning (TomaselloMoll, 2010) or a set of sophisticated skills that we possess (Henrich, 2016) that allow us to create practices, behaviors, norms, artifacts (things), and institutions that are retained by group members and transmitted across generations as well as to other groups is what we refer to as cumulative cultural learning.

  1. Boyd, Richerson, and Henrich (2011a) go even farther and propose that culture is a component of our human biology, arguing that our brains and bodies have been molded and impacted over thousands of years in ways that facilitate the acquisition and transfer of information.
  2. Adaptations and innovations in culture are acquired (form part of a bigger library of knowledge), and then they are improved and built upon through generations, according to the ratchet effect.
  3. Henrich (2004) describes the experiences of Tasmanian islanders and demonstrates how cultural learning may be lost via the use of a mathematical model (Henrich 2004).
  4. According to archeological evidence, the early Tasmanians (who numbered around 70,000 people) possessed a complex toolkit consisting of hundreds of implements as well as a set of hunting abilities for a variety of different species.
  5. Henrich says that Tasmanians lost knowledge because they did not pay attention to the finest models or professors (or because there were less talented individuals) and because the things that were produced were of poor quality.
  6. It is true that there have been instances of cultural loss among aboriginal groups in North America; however, these instances have not been caused by natural selection or ecological forces.
  7. Generally speaking, it is acknowledged that innovations and the accumulation of cultural learning occur at a quicker rate in bigger groups that are more interconnected.
  8. Following a demonstration of a complex fishing net, students were challenged to create the same net using a computer.
  9. Students were awarded points based on the quality of the work they produced.
  10. Members of a bigger group were shown to be more likely to finish the fishing net properly with fewer tries, according to the researchers.

This lab experiment, along with scientific data, demonstrates that while working in a big group, it is more probable that someone will come up with a fantastic idea that can be maintained and enhanced by the group (Heine, 2016), and that the learning process advances more quickly as a result.


Comparative animal studies and developmental study are usually seen as providing evidence that human brains are preprogrammed with a wide range of cognitive capacities that have assisted humans in adapting and surviving throughout our evolutionary history (Henrich, 2016). In addition, some experts believe that genetic evolution shaped human cognitive abilities so that we would become better learners, both individually and in groups, by figuring out what others (such as a teacher or expert or a model example) wanted us to accomplish or know (Henrich, 2016).

In addition to social learning, prosocial actions may be learnt through the cognitive processes we covered previously such as attending and mimicking, as well as through other means.

Large groups with a high degree of interconnectedness are less likely to suffer from knowledge loss and are more able to innovate and adapt to environmental stress and other selection factors.

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