The Evolution and Ontogeny of Cultural Learning


Monday, March 20, 2017, 4:30pm


Haller Hall, Room 102, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Cristine Legare, Associate Professor, Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

Humans display a wide repertoire of socially acquired and transmitted behaviors that vary substantially across populations. Information is accumulated and transferred within and across generations through the process of cumulative culture. What are the evolved psychological mechanisms that underlie cultural learning and how do they develop over the course of ontogeny? In a systematic program of mixed-methodological, comparative, and cross-cultural research, I study the human capacities to learn, create, and transmit culture, to shed light on the cognitive and cultural evolution of our species. The propensity for social learning provides the foundation for cumulative culture, and is both early developing and universal. Selective social learning mechanisms also afford the capacity to flexibly respond to diverse ontogenetic contexts and cultural ecologies. I describe the global diversity in childrearing practices, and present evidence for continuity and variability in the psychological capacities that enable cultural learning.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE TIME OF THE TALK HAS BEEN CHANGED in order to accommodate the OEB lecture by Rasmus Nielsen at 3:00