Human Nature

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 157–178

The question of animal culture

  • Bennett G. Galef

DOI: 10.1007/BF02692251

Cite this article as:
Galef, B.G. Human Nature (1992) 3: 157. doi:10.1007/BF02692251


In this paper I consider whether traditional behaviors of animals, like traditions of humans, are transmitted by imitation learning. Review of the literature on problem solving by captive primates, and detailed consideration of two widely cited instances of purported learning by imitation and of culture in free-living primates (sweet-potato washing by Japanese macaques and termite fishing by chimpanzees), suggests that nonhuman primates do not learn to solve problems by imitation. It may, therefore, be misleading to treat animal traditions and human culture as homologous (rather than analogous) and to refer to animal traditions as cultural.

Key words

Animal tradition Animal culture Imitation and learning Koshima Island (Japan) Gombe National Park (Tanzania) Nonhuman primates 

Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bennett G. Galef
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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