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Seminar: 2/10 - Rob Boyd, UCLA

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  5101 Tolman Hall

Culture and human adaptation

The human species is exceptionally good at adapting. Since emerging from Africa only 60,000 years ago, humans have spread to virtually terrestrial habitat, utilizing a wider range of subsistence and social systems than any other mammal. The standard explanation for our capacity for rapid adaptation is that we have superior cognitive ability---we are just smarter than the average bear. In this talk I will present theory and data that indicate that our exceptional adaptability stems from the fact that humans, unlike any other animal, acquire important components of their behavior by observing the behavior of others. This ability allows us to rapidly evolve superb culturally transmitted adaptations to local conditions that that are far beyond the inventive capacity of individual human cognition.