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Identification of the Social and Cognitive Processes Underlying Human Cumulative Culture

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Science  02 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6072, pp. 1114-1118
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213969

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Acquire and Share

Few would argue with the stance that human social cognition supports an unequaled capacity to acquire knowledge and to share it with others. Dean et al. (p. 1114; see the Perspective by Kurzban and Barrett) compared the extent to which these social and cognitive psychological processes can be elicited in children, capuchins, and chimpanzees through the use of a three-level puzzlebox task. Incentivized by improving rewards, 3- to 4-year-old children progressed from the first to the third level by imitating observed actions, taught other members of their social group how to solve the problem, and shared the rewards obtained. By contrast, neither the capuchins nor chimpanzees, very few of which ever reached the third level, exhibited these charactertistics.