Culture as learned behavior

Wed, 2 Feb 1994 10:04:35 CST

--------------------------- Original Message ---------------------------
Roper quotes me and comments as follows:

> J. Wilson neatly proves that "learned behavior" is too narrow a
> definition of "culture": it includes much of her pet's behavior. That
> is why we need to define culture as the acquisition of a *social
> group*--i.e., two or more members of the same species engaged in
> patterned interaction. --Bob Graber

But then you must include ants and other social animals as having culture
- you need to include the concept of learned in that patterned
interaction, and more importantly this interaction must be based on
SYMBOLS.. . . (Roper) liefs

The quoted passage did not give my full general definition of culture:
Culture: the socially acquired way of life of a social group. (Social
group: two or more organisms of the same species engaged in patterned
interaction.) The concept of "social acquisition" needs further work;
it means to exclude genetic transmission, but includes invention and
diffusion by imitation, therefore does not require symbols. Someone
on the list made the excellent point that huge portions of human culture
depend more on imitation than on symbolic processes--M. Lieber maybe?
Of course, symbols have become pervasively important in human culture;
but not to the exclusion of imitation, which is the basis of culture
among other anthropoid social groups. The concept "way of life" also
needs further work; it means to get at recurrence or "customariness."
Again, I suggest a litmus test which has never let me down: The culture
of a specified social group consists of those features X of which it
makes sense to say, "X is a feature of their socially acquired way of
life." Intentionally disparate examples: Getting up at c. 6:30 AM, and
getting around in a Taurus station wagon (or '72 Mustang), pass the test
for the social group that is my household; separating rice from sand,and
washing sweet potatos pass the test for the Japanese macaque social
group to which Imo (the inventor) belonged; multiple languages, large di
sparities in wealth, nuclear weapons, and space travel pass the test for
the social group that is humankind as a whole. --Bob Graber