Human Nature

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 351–374

Teaching and the Life History of Cultural Transmission in Fijian Villages


DOI: 10.1007/s12110-013-9180-1

Cite this article as:
Kline, M.A., Boyd, R. & Henrich, J. Hum Nat (2013) 24: 351. doi:10.1007/s12110-013-9180-1


Much existing literature in anthropology suggests that teaching is rare in non-Western societies, and that cultural transmission is mostly vertical (parent-to-offspring). However, applications of evolutionary theory to humans predict both teaching and non-vertical transmission of culturally learned skills, behaviors, and knowledge should be common cross-culturally. Here, we review this body of theory to derive predictions about when teaching and non-vertical transmission should be adaptive, and thus more likely to be observed empirically. Using three interviews conducted with rural Fijian populations, we find that parents are more likely to teach than are other kin types, high-skill and highly valued domains are more likely to be taught, and oblique transmission is associated with high-skill domains, which are learned later in life. Finally, we conclude that the apparent conflict between theory and empirical evidence is due to a mismatch of theoretical hypotheses and empirical claims across disciplines, and we reconcile theory with the existing literature in light of our results.

Key words

Cultural transmission Human evolution Teaching Learning Childhood 

Supplementary material

12110_2013_9180_MOESM1_ESM.docx (244 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 244 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle A. Kline
    • 1
  • Robert Boyd
    • 2
    • 3
  • Joseph Henrich
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  3. 3.Sante Fe InstituteSanta FeUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Psychology and EconomicsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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