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Keywords:

  • social learning;
  • human evolution;
  • culture and cognition;
  • coevolution;
  • dual inheritance theory

Abstract

Humans are unique in their range of environments and in the nature and diversity of their behavioral adaptations. While a variety of local genetic adaptations exist within our species, it seems certain that the same basic genetic endowment produces arctic foraging, tropical horticulture, and desert pastoralism, a constellation that represents a greater range of subsistence behavior than the rest of the Primate Order combined. The behavioral adaptations that explain the immense success of our species are cultural in the sense that they are transmitted among individuals by social learning and have accumulated over generations. Understanding how and when such culturally evolved adaptations arise requires understanding of both the evolution of the psychological mechanisms that underlie human social learning and the evolutionary (population) dynamics of cultural systems.