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Identification of the social and cognitive processes underlying human cumulative culture.

Dean, L.G. and Kendal, R.L. and Schapiro, S.J. and Thierry, B. and Laland, K.N. (2012) 'Identification of the social and cognitive processes underlying human cumulative culture.', Science., 335 (6072). pp. 1114-1118.


The remarkable ecological and demographic success of humanity is largely attributed to our capacity for cumulative culture, with knowledge and technology accumulating over time, yet the social and cognitive capabilities that have enabled cumulative culture remain unclear. In a comparative study of sequential problem solving, we provided groups of capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees, and children with an experimental puzzlebox that could be solved in three stages to retrieve rewards of increasing desirability. The success of the children, but not of the chimpanzees or capuchins, in reaching higher-level solutions was strongly associated with a package of sociocognitive processes—including teaching through verbal instruction, imitation, and prosociality—that were observed only in the children and covaried with performance.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Received approximately 25 National and International radio and newspaper media features. Eg. New Scientist, Scientific American, Radio Scotland, Canadian Broadcasting Coorporation, New York Times, Daily Mail, etc. Science Podcast: Science News article:
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Science {335, 2012}, doi:10.1126/science.1213969
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:29 May 2012
Date of first online publication:March 2012
Date first made open access:No date available

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