“Ekeloko” The Spirit to Create: Innovation and Social Learning Among Aka Adolescents of the Central African Rainforest

  • Bonnie HewlettEmail author
Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)


Innovation, as an element of behavioral plasticity, has been hypothesized to enhance the fitness and survivability of individuals, while overall increasing the diversity, and longevity of cultural traits overtime. This study examined innovations and their transmission amongst Aka forager adolescents of central Africa. Developmental studies and evolutionary models predict: older adolescents should be more innovative than children and adults; older adolescent males should be more likely to seek out innovations; innovations should spread by horizontal transmission and; adolescents should pay attention to prestigious (“successful”) peers. In-depth and structured interviews, informal observations, video taping, and systematic ranking and sorting techniques with 20 Aka adolescents of Central African Republic and 10 Aka adult individuals, with five identified as being “innovators,” were utilized to evaluate existing studies.

Contrary to expectations, creation of innovative technologies adopted by others occurred more frequently by adults than adolescents and, both male and female adolescents sought out new innovations from adults rather than peers. Male adolescents did not seek out innovations from female adults, while female adolescents sought out innovations from both adult males and females. As predicted, adult males were more often listed as innovators than adult females. Adolescents of both sexes were more likely to seek out, and pay for, new behaviors, innovations and new technologies than were adults or children. Both males and females frequently listed being seen as more attractive to the opposite sex as the main reason for acquiring new behaviors and or technologies. Additionally, adolescents listed character qualities of the innovators, which could be described as pro-social, and sought out those individuals who exhibited those qualities as well as those who were “good teachers,” utilizing teaching methods which would produce high fidelity cultural transmission of the innovative trait.


Adolescence Africa Cultural transmission Hunter–Gatherers Innovation Social learning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWashington State UniversityVancouverUSA

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