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A Different Kind of AnimalHow Culture Transformed Our Species$
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Robert Boyd

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691195902

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691195902.001.0001

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Not by Brains Alone

Not by Brains Alone

The Vital Role of Culture in Human Adaptation

Chapter:
(p.9) Chapter 1 Not by Brains Alone
Source:
(p.iii) A Different Kind of Animal
Author(s):

Robert Boyd

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691195902.003.0002

This chapter argues that humans make use of insights and adaptations that humans do not understand. Humans learn very often not by figuring out how things work but by imitating others who have locally useful “know-how.” The chapter then describes the conditions under which selection favors “a psychology that causes most people to adopt beliefs just because others hold those beliefs.” Indeed, it contends that “even the simplest hunter-gatherer societies depend on tools and knowledge far too complex for individuals to acquire on their own.” Ultimately, culture is the storehouse of gradually accumulated, local, and typically tacit knowledge. Thus, “cumulative cultural evolution” is the great and unique advantage of humans.

Keywords:   humans, human adaptation, imitation, beliefs, culture, tacit knowledge, cumulative cultural evolution

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