A Diverse and Flexible Teaching Toolkit Facilitates the Human Capacity for Cumulative Culture

Emily Burdett, Samuel Ronfard, Lewis Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
80 Downloads (Pure)


Human culture is uniquely complex compared to other species. This complexity stems from the accumulation of culture over time through high- and low-fidelity transmission and innovation. One possible reason for why humans retain and create culture, is our ability to modulate teaching strategies in order to foster learning and innovation.We argue that teaching is more diverse, flexible, and complex in humans than in other species. This particular characteristic of human teaching rather than teaching itself is one of the reasons for human’s incredible capacity for cumulative culture. That is, humans unlike other species can signal to learners whether the information they are teaching can or cannot be modified. As a result teaching in humans can be used to support high or low fidelity transmission, innovation, and ultimately, cumulative culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(in press)
Number of pages12
JournalReview of Philosophy and Psychology
Volume(in press)
Early online date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Statement: Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Teaching
  • Cultural learning
  • Innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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