Culture and social learning in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens)
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Culture involves the handing down of information, traditions, knowledge and skill, views and ideals from one individual to another and across generations by means of social transmission expressed in manufactured objects and behaviour. The evolution of cumulative culture, a human specific capacity, makes possible an inheritance system that is governed by the same Darwinian principles as biological evolution. Cumulative culture has made possible the build-up or ratcheting effect of knowledge and traditions that when put together allow for advanced technology, medicine, education and other highly advanced cognitive processes that characterise humans from non human animals. This dissertation dedicates the first chapter to review the literature pertaining to this topic; describing various types of social learning processes and methodological approaches that are used to query and broadly describe the process of culture in various animals. The following two chapters (2 and 3) present three experiments that provide methodical and systematic exploration of the social transmission process which occurs in chimpanzees; using 3 artificial foraging devices, the 3 studies systematically demonstrate that chimpanzees have the capacity to transmit culture from one individual to another and serially across neighbouring communities- providing laboratory evidence of behavioural variation analogous to that observed in the wild. Chapter 4 then goes on to describe an experiment that tests a number of hypothesised biases in cultural transmission. Looking specifically at social dynamics at play during the transmission of skill within ape groups - I systematically analyse the effects of directed social learning; focusing on kin and status based strategies that are characteristic of group living apes. Chapter 5 is an original, empirical and methodically comparative analysis of hierarchically organized behaviour in human children and chimpanzees using a hierarchically organized artificial fruit. The final chapter (6) discusses the findings of each of the five experiments and compares the results to findings at other captive and wild research sites. I then broaden the topic to explore how the findings relate to broad issues in literature and provide a framework for future research and for understanding the complex mechanisms of intelligent systems.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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