The question of animal culture

  title={The question of animal culture},
  author={Bennett G. Galef},
  journal={Human Nature},
  • B. Galef
  • Published 1 June 1992
  • Biology
  • Human Nature
In this paper I consider whether traditional behaviors of animals, like traditions of humans, are transmitted by imitation learning. Review of the literature on problem solving by captive primates, and detailed consideration of two widely cited instances of purported learning by imitation and of culture in free-living primates (sweet-potato washing by Japanese macaques and termite fishing by chimpanzees), suggests that nonhuman primates do not learn to solve problems by imitation. It may… 


Two species especially, Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata) and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) show innovation, dissemination, standardization, durability, diffusion, and tradition in both subsistence and nonsubsistence activities, as revealed by decades of longitudinal study.

Culture and Selective Social Learning in Wild and Captive Primates

This chapter draws from field observations and experiments in both captive and wild populations to examine how information may be transferred between individuals and how this may affect the emergence of cultural behaviours across primate species.

Primate Cognition and the Origins of Human Culture

  • D. Simon
  • Biology
    Insights of Anthropology
  • 2019
Evidence that non-human primates indeed do have culture is presented, and several factors which might account for the relative sophistication of human culture are considered: Learning, the ratchet effect, conformity, collaboration, meta-representation, and imagination.

Do animals have culture?

There is no reason to assume that cumulative culture depends critically on teaching, imitation, language, or perspective‐taking in animals, and currently, animals are being judged according to stricter criteria than humans.

What is animal culture

A definition of animal culture is constructed to attempt to offer a definition of culture that makes sense of how it is used by psychologists, biologists, anthropologists, and others who use the term culture in studies of animal behavior.



The Evolution of Culture in Animals

John Bonner traces the origins of culture back to the early biological evolution of animals and provides examples of five categories of behavior leading to nonhuman culture: physical dexterity, relations with other species, auditory communication within a species, geographic locations, and inventions or innovations.

Teaching among wild chimpanzees

The “Instinct to Teach”

Barnett points out that teaching by punishment is common among animals but believes that the evidence for teaching by encouragement is weak and it is difficult to distinguish between “behaviour which promotes learning of skills by imitation, on the one hand, and directed teaching”.

Observational learning of tool-use by young chimpanzees

These findings complement naturalistic observations in suggesting that chimpanzee tool-use is in some sense «culturally transmitted» — though perhaps not in the same sense as social-conventional behaviors for which precise copying of conspecifics is crucial.

Chimpanzee subsistence technology: Materials and skills

Responsiveness to objects in free-ranging Japanese monkeys.

1. Responsiveness to inanimate objects was studied in feral M. fuscata by: (a) observing reactions to naturally occurring objects, (b) placing novel toys along paths and on rocks, and (c) presenting

Does Biology Constrain Culture

A “thought experiment” is employed to demonstrate that neither side of the sociobiology debate is justified in dismissing the arguments of the other.

The “Instinct to Teach”

The concept of teaching contains the notion that the teacher's behaviour is guided by the pupil's performance, and other kinds of teaching are aided by imitation, or learning by observation.

On Human Nature

HUMAN nature as understood by that most pessimistic of philosophers, Schopenhauer, is here presented in English dress by Mr. Saunders. The essays which make up the book have been selected and