Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Symbolic Culture

  • Marc KisselEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3318-1



The creation, use, and transfer of symbolic objects, such as the creation of meaningful images and soundscapes, through culturally mediated transmission.


Discerning what makes Homo sapiensunique among the rest of the species on the planet has been a difficult task, especially as behaviors such as tool use, learning, altruism, and compassion have been reported in nonhuman animals (though not without controversy). What does seem distinctive is our unique symbolic culture, the use and transmission of symbols intergenerationally. To be clear, animals use sound for communication, and some have elaborate systems of information transfer, but only modern humans use symbolic culture to create and recreate the human niche through concepts such as good and evil and political systems. The origin of symbolic culture has been a major research topic for scholars studying human evolution and has been the subject of...


Modern Human Linguistic Sign Symbolic Culture Symbolic Behavior Mortuary Practice 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Christopher D. Watkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Psychology, School of Social and Health SciencesAbertay UniversityDundeeUK