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Drawing courtesy of Amy Whiten
Organised by Professor Andrew Whiten FBA
This is a satellite meeting related to the ‘parent’ Culture evolves discussion meeting immediately preceding it and held at Southbank Centre. The Culture evolves meeting is focussed on the broad topic of culture, with social learning but one component of this. Talks in the DM will not necessarily be concerned with particular processes of social learning. Accordingly, the Kavli meeting is designed to home in on social learning processes, in a way that complements the Culture evolves meeting. Invited speakers are scientists who have been active in pursuing experimental or other empirical studies aimed at dissecting social learning processes, and in many cases developing taxonomies, theories or conceptual schemes for such dissection. Of the 16 speakers, 8 study children, 4 study human adults and 14 study non-human animals including guppies, tortoises, pigeons, quail, budgerigars, starlings, hens, keas, ravens, jackdaws, dogs, rats, marmosets, capuchins, macaques and all the great apes. As those familiar with the field will know, numerous controversies, from the terminological to the empirical, surround studies of social learning, and these are expected to make appropriate and timely topics for the kinds of scientific discussions now encouraged at the Royal Society’s new Kavli Centre.
Biographies and audio recordings are available below.
Professor Andrew Whiten, University of St Andrews, UKOrganiser
Andrew Whiten is Professor of Evolutionary and Developmental Psychology, and Wardlaw Professor of Psychology at the University of St Andrews. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and Director of the ‘Living Links to Human Evolution’ Research Centre, a primate research centre of the University, located in Edinburgh Zoo in partnership with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. His research has focused on social cognition, particularly social learning, tradition and culture in both human and non-human primates. He has led the international collaboration charting cultural variation in wild chimpanzees, more recently complementing this with a suite of experimental studies dissecting social learning and cultural diffusion in monkeys, apes and human children. For this work he has received the Prix Delwart of the Royal Academy of Belgium and the Rivers Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and the Osman Hill Medal of the Primate Society of Great Britain.
Professor Cecilia Heyes, University of Oxford, UKWhat is ‘social’ about social learning?
Professor Heyes was trained as an experimental psychologist at University College London (UCL, 1978-84). As a Harkness Fellow in the United States (1984-6), Professor Heyes studied evolutionary epistemology with Donald T Campbell and philosophy of mind with Daniel Dennett. She spent a second postdoctoral period studying associative learning as a Research Fellow of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge (1986-9), and then returned to UCL as a member of faculty in 1988. The next 20 years were focussed on experimental work, initially in animal cognition and later in cognitive neuroscience. In the later years (2000-2008) Professor Heyes group developed and tested an associative account of the origins of imitation and the mirror neuron system. In 2008 she left UCL to become a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford where she is concentrating on theoretical work while collaborating in experimental projects in Oxford and elsewhere.
Dr Judith Burkart, Anthropologisches Institut & Museum, University of Zurich, Austria How and what to learn from individual differences in social learning
Judith Burkart is a senior postdoc at the Anthropological Institute and Museum of the University of Zurich and is interested in the cognitive evolution of primates. She earned her Master degree at the Université de Fribourg, CH, in General & Developmental Psychology. For her PhD, she studied Theory of Mind precursors in common marmosets at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Reserach in Vienna. Her current focus of research includes comparative studies, particularly in the domains of social learning, innovation, prosocialty and goal understanding, as well as the question whether a cooperative breeding system has repercussions on the psychological and cognitive regulation across species.
Dr Kristin Bonnie, Beloit College, USABroadening connections: social learning theory and practice
Dr Kristin E Bonnie received her PhD from Emory University in 2007 and is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Beloit College (Beloit, WI, USA) and a research associate with Lincoln Park Zoo's Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes (Chicago, IL, USA). As a graduate student with the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center, she studied social learning in capuchin monkeys and chimpanzees. Her research interests include investigations of social learning under conditions of varying reward availabilities, the effects of social relationships on social learning, the transmission of social traditions, and the interaction between metacognition and learning in humans and apes.
Professor Bennett Galef, McMaster University, The relationship between terminology and experiment in studies of social learning
Dr Galef is currently Emeritus Professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario where he has worked since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He is author of more than 300 scientific publications most concerned with social learning in animals. His publications on social learning include four edited books (with: (1) Tom Zentall, (2) Celia Heyes, (3) Paula Valsecchi, and (4) Kevin Laland) and two special issues of journals (with: (1) Celia Heyes and (2) Rachel Kendal and Carel van Schaik). For 40 years, much of the work in Dr Galef's laboratory involved analyses of social influences on the food choices of Norway rats and on the mate choices of Japanese quail.
Dr Galef served for 4 years as President of the Animal Behavior Society and as co-founder, and for 8 years as co-organizer of the Winter Animal Behavior Conferences. He was a member of the editorial boards of 12 journals (in fields ranging from ecology and communication to physiological and developmental psychology), among them Animal Behaviour, where he served for 3 years as North American Executive Editor. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society, Animal Behavior Society, Canadian Psychological Association and Royal Society of Canada, and recipient of a Lifetime Contribution Award from St. Andrew's University for his work in social learning, Dr Galef retired in 2004, and closed his laboratory in 2008. However, he remains active in science both as a research collaborator and as an editor and reviewer. His various hobbies (photography, chess, Tai Chi, fishing, skiing, snorkeling and travel to exotic climes from Port Moresby, PNG to Timbuktu, Mali, both of which he visited last year), occupy an increasing portion of his time.
Dr Christine A Caldwell, University of Stirling, UKDo social learning taxonomies help us to understand cumulative culture?
Christine Caldwell’s research concerns social learning and traditions in humans and nonhuman primates. Her background is in Psychology, as she holds a BSc (hons) in Psychology from the University of Edinburgh (1996), and an MSc in Cognitive Science from the University of Manchester (1997). She carried out her PhD research under the supervision of Professor Andrew Whiten at the University of St Andrews, on the topic of social learning in nonhuman primates, graduating in 2003. Following her PhD, she was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Exeter. In 2004 she returned to Scotland as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Stirling. Since she has been in this post she has been awarded two research grants by the ESRC, both for projects involving experimental study of social learning and traditions in humans. She has recent publications in journals with a primate focus (American Journal of Primatology, International Journal of Primatology), and those with a human focus (Psychological Science, Evolution and Human Behavior). She is an active member of the University of Stirling Behaviour and Evolution Research Group (BERG), and the Scottish Primate Research Group (SPRG).
Professor Nicola McGuigan, Heriot-Watt University, UKThe scope of over-imitation in the cultural transmission of tool-based actions
Nicola McGuigan’s research focuses on social learning in young children and adults. She holds a BSc (hons) in Psychology from the University of Stirling (1999), and a PhD from Glasgow Caledonian University, graduating in 2003. She carried out her doctoral research under the supervision of Dr Maria Nunez, on the topic of social learning in infancy and the preschool period. Following her PhD, she was appointed as a teaching fellow at the University of St Andrews, and then as a lecturer at the University of St Andrews in 2004. In 2006 she was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Heriot Watt University. Since she has been in this post she has been awarded research grants by the British Academy and the Scottish Government.
Dr Mark Nielsen, University of Queensland, AustraliaExtreme copying in a cross-cultural context and the origins of cumulative culture
Dr Nielsen has published papers covering a range of inter-related aspects of socio-cognitive development (eg, self-recognition, pretend play, imitation, mental time travel and theory of mind) in young human children and nonhuman primates. At present his research primarily focuses on how investigating social learning processes can inform debate on the origins and development of human cultural cognition. His research in this area has included studying the imitative behaviour of children living in remote Bushmen communities in the Kalahari Desert. This work represents the first experimental research on social learning processes among descendants of Africa’s first people.
Professor Ludwig Huber, University of Vienna, AustriaBad data: social learning findings that don't fit the theories
Ludwig Huber has been associated professor of Zoology at the University of Vienna since 2000. Since January 2010 he is Head of the Department of Cognitive Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Vienna. He studied biology and philosophy and examined advanced forms of conditioning in the goldfish for his masters’ thesis and visual categorization in pigeons for his doctoral thesis (Graduation: 1991). Huber’s work is focused toward understanding animals within a biological context and from an evolutionary point of view. The research in Austrian laboratories and at field sites in New Zealand and Brazil is conducted with animals of four taxonomic groups of vertebrates: fish (goldfish, archer fish), reptiles (tortoises), birds (pigeons, keas), and mammals (marmosets, dogs, and humans). Current work clusters around four topics of animal cognition: visual cognition (categorization, concept formation), social cognition (social learning, theory of mind), technical cognition (causal understanding, tool use), and the evolution of cognition.
Dr William Hoppitt, University of St Andrews, UKStatistical methods for distinguishing social learning mechanisms in the field
Dr Hoppitt started his career as a Biology undergraduate at Oxford University, before moving to the Sub Department of Animal Behaviour at Cambridge University to do his PhD. As a postgraduate Dr Hoppitt worked under the supervision of Kevin Laland, combining theoretical work on neural network models of social learning, with empirical work on domestic fowl. He then moved to St Andrews University to work as a postdoctoral researcher, again in Kevin Laland’s lab. Here he has been working mainly on statistical methods to detect social learning and distinguish social learning mechanisms in groups of animals. Dr Hoppitt has been applying these methods to his own work on captive budgerigars, to captive populations of primates, and to wild groups of meerkats.
Professor Thomas Bugnyar, University of Vienna, AustriaSocial learning in corvids: from whom, when and how?
Thomas Bugnyar received his PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Vienna, Austria in 2001. He was subsequently awarded two fellowships from the Austrian Science Fund, an Erwin-Schrödinger fellowship for international mobility, allowing him to do postdoctoral research at University of Vermont, Burlington, USA, and an Erwin-Schrödinger follow-up program, enabling him to establish his own research group in Austria. After a year as lecturer at the School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, Scotland, he returned to Vienna for the prestigious START program of the Austrian Science Fund. He is now professor for Cognitive Ethology and part of the newly founded Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna.
His research focuses on social behaviour and complex cognition in avian societies, particularly corvids such as ravens, ranging from social information use, perspective taking and ‘theory of mind’ to cooperation and conflict management. He has published over 40 journal articles and book chapters and is a member of the editorial board of Animal Behaviour, the scientific committee of the Ethological Society and the EU-program ‘Atomium Culture’.
Professor Thomas Zentall, University of Kentucky, USAImitation by animals: how do they do it?
Thomas R Zentall is DiSilvestro Professor of Arts and Sciences in Psychology at the University of Kentucky. He has been a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Université de Lille, France, and a Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Sevilla, Spain and Kieo University Tokyo, Japan. Dr Zentall received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. He has served as Chair of the Governing Board of the Psychonomic Society, President of the Comparative Cognition Society, President of the Midwestern Psychological Association, and President of the Division of Experimental Psychology and the Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology of the American Psychological Association, He has published research in the area of comparative cognition, social learning, concept learning, equivalence, timing, navigation, maladaptive gambling, and self control, and has edited several books on comparative cognition and social learning.
Dr Lydia Meriel Hopper, Georgia State University, USALearning from ghosts: the social learning mechanisms of chimpanzees and children
Dr Hopper joined the Language Research Center, Georgia State University, USA, in January 2010 and is a Post Doctoral Associate working with Dr Sarah Brosnan on a NSF-funded project entitled ‘Understanding Responses to Inequitable Outcomes in Non-human Primates’. Dr Hopper gained a PhD in 2008 from the University of St Andrews, UK, where she was supervised by Professor Andrew Whiten. Dr Hopper used a comparative approach to study the social learning mechanisms evidenced by both human children and captive chimpanzees. Although she is currently researching responses to inequity, she is able to bring her knowledge of social learning to her current post by focussing on the social factors that underlie such responses. Dr Hopper also maintains an interest in the field of social learning through on-going collaborations with Drs Emma Flynn and Rachel Kendal, Durham University, UK, where she was based for two years, including one year as an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow.
Dr Chi-Tai Huang, Tzu Chi University, Taiwan Exploring developmental continuity between action processing and action imitation
Dr Huang received his PhD from University College London. His primary research interests are in perception and learning of infants. He has been examining how infants process different sources of information from environments to reproduce the behavior of others. His research projects involve variation of an imitation paradigm developed for delineation of social learning processes. In this paradigm infants’ imitation is studied by using digitally modified videos that highlight specific acts of a model in isolation. To assess whether the way in which infants perceive acts determines what they copy, an eye tracking technique has been recently applied to record infants’ gaze to understand how they pick up information during observation. Some specific research questions being investigated by Dr Huang are:
1. How do infants come to grasp the concept of intention?2. Is the infant intention reading ability sensitive to human-specific acts only or to acts across people and objects?3. Is there a domain general mechanism governing perception and imitation of intentional acts?4. Does the development of different types of social learning follow a developmental trend?
Professor Malinda Carpenter, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, GermanyCultural learning
Malinda Carpenter is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. She is also head of the Minerva Foundation research group on Social Origins of Cultural Cognition in Infancy. She got her PhD in Developmental Psychology from Emory University in 1995. She has worked mainly with typically-developing infants and young children, but also with children with autism, and apes. Her research interests include social functions of imitation, participation in shared activities (e.g., joint attention, communication, collaboration), understanding of others’ psychological states (intentions, attention, knowledge, beliefs), relations with in- vs. out-group members, and differences between ape and human social cognition.
Dr Josep Call, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, GermanyCultural learning
Josep Call is a comparative psychologist specialized in primate cognition. He received a BA (1990) from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain), and a master (1995) and a PhD (1997) from Emory University, Atlanta (USA). From 1997 to 1999 he was a lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Liverpool (UK) where he taught courses on primate cognition and cognitive evolution. In 1999 he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) where he is currently a senior scientist and director of the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center. He has published two books and nearly two hundred research articles and book chapters on the cognition and behavior of apes and other animals and has presented his work on numerous occasions at international meetings. He is currently the associate editor of the ‘Journal of Comparative Psychology’ and a member of the editorial board of several other academic journals.
Dr Deborah M Custance, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UKTesting for programme level social learning in monkeys, apes and humans
Debbie Custance has studied social learning in chimpanzees, orang-utans, tufted capuchins, pig-tail macaques, ring-tailed lemurs, adult humans, typically-developing children and children with autism. She received a first class honours in Philsophy/Psychology from the University of Stirling in 1990. She was awared a PhD in 1994 from the University of St Andrews under the supervision of Prof Andrew Whiten. After acting as a teaching fellow at St Andrews for two years, she worked for a year as the field manager on a project entitled “Maternal Strategies in Wild Olive Baboons” (on a BBSRC grant awarded to Andrew Whiten and Robert Barton). In 1997, she was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Goldsmith College, where she remains today. She has received two separate grants from the British Academy to study social learning in pig-tailed macaques with colleagues from the University of Milan and wild ring-tailed lemurs from Berenty Reserve, Madagascar. She also received funding from the ESRC to study object-directed imitation in children with autism. She has published in several journals with a primate and comparative focus (e.g., Behaviour, J. of Comparative Psychology, Animal Cognition and the International J. of Primatology).
Dr Francys Subiaul, The George Washington University, USAThe cognitive architecture of cultural learning
My research seeks to understand human cultural uniqueness. Specifically, my colleagues and I have sought to address: What and how do we learn from others? These are questions that we take for granted, as social learning comes so naturally to humans. Yet, most of what we know is derived from knowledge acquired from others. Given that social learning is widespread in the animal kingdom, and traditions exist in great apes species, a fundamental question in the human sciences is what makes human social learning so seemingly different?
Over the past years, my colleagues and I have approached this problem by deconstructing imitation into component parts in an attempt to define the imitation faculty in humans and other primates. First, we have sought to answer whether some types of arbitrary rules are easier to copy than others. For instance, are arbitrary spatial rules (up, down, right) easier to copy than ordinal rules (first, second, third)? Second, what is inherently easy/hard about copying certain types of information? And third, given this knowledge, when we present non-human primates with similar tasks, do we find any meaningful differences in imitation performance?
Panel Discussion: Overview and Future Directions
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