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Social learning among Congo Basin hunter-gatherers

Barry S. Hewlett, Hillary N. Fouts, Adam H. Boyette and Bonnie L. Hewlett
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 366, No. 1567, Culture evolves (12 April 2011), pp. 1168-1178
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41148946
Page Count: 11
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Social learning among Congo Basin hunter-gatherers
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Abstract

This paper explores childhood social learning among Aka and Bofi hunter-gatherers in Central Africa. Existing literature suggests that hunter-gatherer social learning is primarily vertical (parent-to-child) and that teaching is rare. We use behavioural observations, open-ended and semi-structured interviews, and informal and anecdotal observations to examine the modes (e.g. vertical versus horizontal/oblique) and processes (e.g. teaching versus observation and imitation) of cultural transmission. Cultural and demographic contexts of social learning associated with the modes and processes of cultural transmission are described. Hunter-gatherer social learning occurred early, was relatively rapid, primarily vertical under age 5 and oblique and horizontal between the ages of 6 and 12. Pedagogy and other forms of teaching existed as early as 12 months of age, but were relatively infrequent by comparison to other processes of social learning such as observation and imitation.

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