Constructing Social Learning in Interaction Among the Baka Hunter-Gatherers

  • Koji Sonoda
Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)


This chapter shows how children and adults of the Baka Pygmies in eastern Cameroon construct social learning. Although the “easygoing” nature of the relationship between children and adults has been argued, previous hunter-gatherer research has given little attention to the children’s participation in hunting and gathering activities and the details of oblique knowledge transmission during these activities. I collected data by video recording naturally occurring interactions between adults (or adolescents) and children during the children’s participation in collective hunting, gathering, and other cultural activities such as butchering animals. The ages of the focal children ranged from 5 to 9 years old.

The findings show that the adults’ and adolescents’ actions contributed to the children’s building of situation-embedded knowledge. The focal children were able to adopt a social and cooperative stance toward the activities being performed, and the activities gave them access to various learning resources (other participants, phrases spoken during an activity, objects, tools, the immediate environment in which the children participate, etc.). From these findings, it becomes clear that the knowledge built in every social situation was not a one-sided endeavor, but rather a collaboration between experts and learners. The cognitive state and the body positioning of the children were taken into account by adults (or adolescents) in these learning contexts in order to facilitate the (re)production of knowledge by the children. This fact leads us to the conclusion that experts’ sensitivity to learners and the learning contexts where they are situated are distinctive key characteristics of social learning in humans.


“Easygoing” nature Adult-children relationships Social situation Knowledge making 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Asian and African StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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