LIBC Sylvius Lectures

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Andrew Whiten, Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews

Social Learning and Culture in Child, Chimpanzee, and in Our Evolutionary Ancestry


Date & Time: March 15th, 2019, 4.30 pm
Location: Collegezaal 5, Building 1, LUMC 


Culture was once thought uniquely human, but research in recent decades has revealed an undreamt-of richness in the social learning, traditions and culture of our closest primate relatives. The implication is that although human culture is the most complex on the planet, it did not arise out of the blue, but instead evolved from simpler foundations. We can use commonalities in cultural phenomena between ourselves and other apes to reconstruct these origins.

In this talk I do so by describing the commonalities we have discovered between human and chimpanzee culture in (i) the patterning of traditions in space and over time; (ii) the contents of traditions; and (iii) the underlying social learning processes, such as imitation and emulation. This comparative approach also throws into clearer relief the ways in which human culture has evolved from its primate origins in distinctive ways.


Readings / Recent reviews:

  • Whiten, A. (2017a). Social learning and culture in child and chimpanzee. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 129-154.
  • Whiten, A. & van de Waal, E. (2017). Social learning, culture and the ‘socio-cultural brain’ of human and non-human primates. Neuroscience and Bio-behavioral Reviews (special issue, ‘Primate social cognition’) 82, 58-75.
  • Whiten, A. & van de Waal, E. (2018). The pervasive role of social learning in primate lifetime development. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (special issue, ‘An evolutionary perspective on the development of primate sociality’) 72, UNSP 80 online, print in press.
  • Whiten, A. (2018). The evolution and ontogeny of 'deep social mind' and the social brain. In J.T. Elison & M. D. Sera (Eds.) Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology, Vol 39, Development of the Social Brain. pp 1-43. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  • Hoehl, S., Keupp, S., Schleihauf, H., McGuigan, N., Buttelmann, D. & Whiten, A. (2019). ‘Over-imitation’: A review and appraisal of a decade of research. Developmental Review 51, 90-108.

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