At this seminar Dr Richard Moore, University of Warwick, will present an online seminar titled ‘Learning (to learn) from others', hosted by Kirsty Graham.
In this talk Richard will argue that two skills identified as central to human cognitive uniqueness – pointing and imitation – may result from a common underlying cognitive shift in human or late hominin history. While they are typically argued to be the result of independent adaptations for cooperative communication and high-fidelity social learning, Richard's research suggests that there are relatively weak grounds for thinking they derived from independent biological changes rather than a single cultural or ecological change.
He will argue that the development of both pointing comprehension and imitation likely resulted from an ecological change in our ancestral environment, which led our ancestors to look to each other, rather than to their environment, as sources of information about the world. Richard will explain why both ape emulation and pointing failure can be thought of as resulting from individualistic information gathering strategies, and sketch a scenario that would have made such strategies non-viable. Richard will present some empirical data he has collected with his collaborators, which supports a new explanation of why great apes are typically poor at pointing comprehension.
Finally, he will argue that since both pointing and imitation have been trained with enculturation, they should not be assumed to result from biological adaptations in the hominin lineage.
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