Human culture is unique among animals in its complexity, variability, and cumulative quality. This talk describes the development and diversity of cumulative cultural learning. Children inhabit cultural ecologies that consist of group-specific knowledge, practices, and technologies that are inherited and modified over generations. The learning processes that enable cultural acquisition and transmission are universal but are sufficiently flexible to accommodate the highly diverse cultural repertoires of human populations. 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 evolution and ontogeny of human cognition and culture.


Cristine Legare is a professor of psychology and the director of the Evolution, Variation, and Ontogeny of Learning Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research examines how the human mind enables us to learn, create, and transmit culture. She conducts comparisons across age, culture, and species to address fundamental questions about cognitive and cultural evolution. Visit her website at https://www.cristinelegare.com or follow her on twitter @CristineLegare.