News of the WeekAnthropology

Probing Culture's Secrets, From Capuchins to Children

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Science  16 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5989, pp. 266-267
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5989.266

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A recent meeting probed how culture, usually defined as the passing on of traditions by learning from others, arises and changes. The 700 attendees, a mixture of researchers and members of the public, heard talks on cultural transmission in fish, meerkats, birds, and monkeys, as well as in extinct and living humans. Researchers probed questions such as what sparks cultural trends and how complex traditions are transmitted, and most agreed that studies of both animals and children will provide important clues.