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Teaching and curiosity: sequential drivers of cumulative cultural evolution in the hominin lineage


van Schaik, Carel P; Pradhan, Gauri R; Tennie, Claudio (2019). Teaching and curiosity: sequential drivers of cumulative cultural evolution in the hominin lineage. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 73:2.

Abstract

Many animals, and in particular great apes, show evidence of culture, in the sense of having multiple innovations in multiple domains whose frequencies are influenced by social learning. But only humans show strong evidence of complex, cumulative culture, which is the product of copying and the resulting effect of cumulative cultural evolution. The reasons for this increase in complexity have recently become the subject of extensive debate. Here, we examine these reasons, relying on both comparative and paleoarcheological data. The currently best-supported inference is that culture began to be truly cumulative (and so, outside the primate range) around 500,000 years ago. We suggest that the best explanation for its onset is the emergence of verbal teaching, which not only requires language and thus probably coevolved with the latter’s evolution but also reflects the overall increase in proactive cooperation due to extensive allomaternal care. A subsequent steep increase in cumulative culture, roughly 75 ka, may reflect the rise of active novelty seeking (curiosity), which led to a dramatic range expansion and steep increase in the diversity and complexity of material culture. A final, and continuing, period of acceleration began with the Neolithic (agricultural) revolution.

Abstract

Many animals, and in particular great apes, show evidence of culture, in the sense of having multiple innovations in multiple domains whose frequencies are influenced by social learning. But only humans show strong evidence of complex, cumulative culture, which is the product of copying and the resulting effect of cumulative cultural evolution. The reasons for this increase in complexity have recently become the subject of extensive debate. Here, we examine these reasons, relying on both comparative and paleoarcheological data. The currently best-supported inference is that culture began to be truly cumulative (and so, outside the primate range) around 500,000 years ago. We suggest that the best explanation for its onset is the emergence of verbal teaching, which not only requires language and thus probably coevolved with the latter’s evolution but also reflects the overall increase in proactive cooperation due to extensive allomaternal care. A subsequent steep increase in cumulative culture, roughly 75 ka, may reflect the rise of active novelty seeking (curiosity), which led to a dramatic range expansion and steep increase in the diversity and complexity of material culture. A final, and continuing, period of acceleration began with the Neolithic (agricultural) revolution.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 January 2019
Deposited On:07 Feb 2020 15:44
Last Modified:05 Mar 2020 16:29
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0340-5443
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-018-2610-7

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