SOCIAL LEARNING DURING MIDDLE CHILDHOOD AMONG AKA FORAGERS AND NGANDU FARMERS OF THE CENTRAL AFRICA REPUBLIC
Boyette, Adam Howell
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Homo sapiens are uniquely characterized by a lengthy juvenile period we call childhood and a pronounced reliance on social learning for the acquisition of an adaptive behavioral repertoire, commonly referred to as culture. Anthropologists have been long been interested in children's social learning, but recent interest in cultural transmission by other disciplines, notably biology and psychology, offers an important opportunity for interdisciplinary integration. This manuscript is the first systematic, comparative study of children's social learning in two small-scale societies: the Aka forest foragers and Ngandu farmers of the Central African Republic. Herein, I review the social learning process and cultural transmission modes argued to make the transmission of complex, cumulative human culture possible and culture as a distinct inheritance system evolve. I then build a set of hypotheses derived from evolutionary models of social learning and cultural transmission theory, and informed by a developmental niche perspective. I find that evolutionary models of optimal social learning schedules, and adaptive cultural transmission modes generally hold, but vary in ways predicted by core cultural differences between foragers and farmers.Among my major results are: Each social learning process decreases with age, trading off with individual learning as predicted by evolutionary theory; Same-sex cultural transmission of work behavior is associated with cultural variations in the sexual division of labor; Social play is a major social learning process for child-to-child transmission of foundational cultural schema such as competition versus cooperation; Teaching is present among both foragers and farmers but consists of at least three different social learning processes, and teaching via vertical transmission is of less importance during middle childhood among foragers than among farmers; Food sharing norms are transmitted to Aka forager children through multiple social learning process and cultural transmission modes, but Ngandu farmers rarely have the opportunity to observe food sharing.The results of these novel analyses provide new insights into the culture learner-culture teacher interface, and help to better characterize the dynamic interplay between childhood and culture in human adaptation.