Past event

Prof Rachel Kendal (Durham University): 'The adaptive use of social learning' School of Psychology and Neuroscience Seminar

This session's speaker will be Prof Rachel Kendal, Professor in the Department of Anthropology, and Member of the Durham Cultural Evolution Research Centre, Durham University, hosted in person and online by Amanda Seed.

The adaptive use of social learning

Social learning (learning from others) underlies the wide-spread occurrence of traditions or culture in all animals, including humans.  Although social learning is a cheap and efficient form of learning, it is not adaptive to use social information indiscriminately due to its potential unreliability. Accordingly, transmission biases (or social learning strategies) enable individuals to avoid the costs associated with asocial learning and determine when they should use social information and from whom they should acquire it.   Investigation of these biases has increased rapidly in the last 15 years.  I shall review several of my empirical studies, with young children and non-humans, highlighting the potential role of transmission biases, in the establishment of cultural traditions and in humanity's striking capacity for cumulative culture.  I will briefly touch upon future directions, including the potential for applying knowledge of transmission biases to societal issues.