Studying the origins of human material culture in young children

The diversity and complexity of human material culture (tools, buildings, vehicles, instrumental skills) is unique in the animal kingdom. Two key psychological factors explaining this uniqueness are our propensity to copy others faithfully and the ability to innovate, which have allowed us to accumulate improvements in our cultural traits over time, resulting in traits that are beyond the scope of any single individual (cumulative culture). My research explores the developmental origins of cumulative cultural learning in human children. I will present the first study showing that young children readily copy a material cultural product that is still beyond their scope of individual invention (“culture-dependent trait”). I will also present a study investigating whether children can already produce culture-dependent traits by themselves. I conclude that young children learn culture-dependent traits as readily as non-culture-dependent traits, but that it remains an open question as to whether they already possess the innovative capacities to create culture-dependent traits on their own.

Departmental Seminar Hilary Term 2018

Fridays, 3.15pm, Lecture Theatre, Pitt Rivers Museum (off Robinson Close)

Convened by Marcus Banks and Leslie Fesenmyer.