The Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology of Social Learning and Culture

Lydia M. Hopper*, Andrew Whiten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Citations (Scopus)


Social learning allows for the transmission of information between individuals and, potentially, across generations. In addition to increasing the efficiency by which new behaviors are learned it can also facilitate the propagation of behavioral traditions and, ultimately, culture. In the first half of this chapter we describe the social learning mechanisms that define how information is transmitted, under what circumstances social learning is advantageous, and provide an evolutionary perspective by illustrating different species' propensities for social learning. Through the second half of this chapter we compare the behavioral traditions observed among animals in the wild. We discuss the defining features of human culture and whether any animals, other than ourselves, can be considered "cultural." We conclude that although human material culture was long thought to be a defining hallmark of our species, current reports from both the wild and captivity have begun to dispel the notion that we are the only cultural beings.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Comparative Evolutionary Psychology
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940943
ISBN (Print)9780199738182
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2012


  • Cultural transmission
  • Culture
  • Cumulative culture
  • Social learning mechanisms
  • Social learning strategies
  • Teaching


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