Professor of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin
The development and diversity of cumulative culture learning
Human culture is unique among animal species in its complexity, diversity, and variability. Children inhabit cultural ecologies that contain knowledge systems, beliefs, practices, artifacts, and technologies that are transmitted and modified over generations. In this talk I describe the development and diversity of cumulative cultural learning. I propose that the learning processes that enable cultural acquisition and transmission are universal but are sufficiently flexible to accommodate highly diverse cultural toolkits. Children learn culture in several complementary ways, including through exploration, observation, participation, imitation, and instruction. These methods of learning vary in frequency and kind within and between populations due to variation in socialization values and practices associated with specific educational institutions, skill sets, and knowledge systems. The processes by which children acquire and transmit the cumulative culture of their communities provide unique insight into the cognitive foundations of cumulative cultural transmission—the cornerstone of human cultural diversity.
About Cristine Legare
Cristine H. Legare is a Professor of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research examines how the mind enables people to learn, create, and transmit culture. Her interdisciplinary research program integrates cognitive science, international education, and global public health. She conducts comparisons across age, culture, and species to address fundamental questions about the co-construction of cognition and culture.