Culture as learned behavior

Lt Commander Data (data@SELWAY.UMT.EDU)
Mon, 31 Jan 1994 09:45:38 -0700

On Mon, 31 Jan 1994, SS51000 wrote:

> 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

My dear Bob

In the spirit of A. Kroeber: if an individual is making a pot, the
activity is cultural, it simply isn't social (that is, directed towards
another person). You need to differentiate between social behavior
(behavior which is directed towards another person) and cultural
behavior. J. Wilson's dog analogy was touching, but failed to convey an
extremely important aspect of culture (learned behavior): it must also be
transmitted to successive generations. I doubt that her fine pet was able
to pass its *conditioned responses* (see B.F. Skinner for clarification,
if necessary) to its offspring.

At some point in our evolutionary heritage, Homo sapiens was able to
learn, and subsequently to teach (its offspring). This is what we now
call culture.

If J. Wilson's dog was breeding (ie: intercourse with a member of its
species) is that culture? According to your definition (two or more
members of the same species engaged in patterned behavior) it must be.

Also, I am having some trouble with the logic of defining culture as the
"acquisition of a social group". Can you clarify this?

If you can provide a concrete example of ANY human behavior which is free
from cultural context, I will reconsider my position; until then, I will
stand by my defintion. Culture is, simply, learned behavior.

Data out

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night time."
"The dog did nothing in the night time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.