How did you learn to collect honey?
Cultural evolution theory predicts which social learning pathways we expect people to use, but much less often when—during a person's life cycle— different social learning pathways will be used. By measuring knowledge and skill variation between age cohorts, it is possible to infer how people socially acquire different types of knowledge at different ages.
We use this strategy among the Jenu Kuruba, a tribal community in South India. We document the accumulation of local knowledge required for collecting wild honey among children and adults from five communities. Combining measurements of knowledge with measures of four honey-collecting skills, we infer patterns of social learning across the lifecycle.
We find that (1) most knowledge related to honey collecting is acquired by the early 20s, and later social learning mainly functions to update information; (2) the eldest cohort has the highest average knowledge, although the most knowledgeable or skilled individuals are not always the elderly; (3) length of learning a skill can be affected by age; and (4) children tend to learn from parents when young, but from non-relatives later in life.
Accounting for age-dependent patterns of knowledge transmission is critical for understanding culture change in age-structured populations, such as humans have.
Kathryn Demps, Francisco Zorondo-Rodríguez, Claude García,Victoria Reyes-García. "Social learning across the life cycle: cultural knowledge acquisition for honey collection among the Jenu Kuruba, India" Evolution and Human Behavior. Volume 33, Issue 5, September 2012, Pages 460–470.