Cognitive Science: An Introduction/Learning At Different Levels of Analysis

Learning Over Human HistoryEdit

Genetic LearningEdit

Genetics in a learning context refers to learning when environments change very slowly over the course of time. Factors that change environments could include things like evolution or even natural disasters. People and animals adapt to these things and learn about the environment around them through observation.

Cultural Learning/Cultural TransmissionEdit

Cultural learning, also referred to as cultural transmission, takes place when environments change more quickly. It is a type of learning rooted in more in imitation and often in tradition. There are various different kinds of cultural learning.

  • Content bias is imitation of the best ideas in society or those that seem to work successfully. Basically, the idea is to shape society to improve based on what was successful in the past [1]

. Upholding cultural tradition can also come into play in this type of learning.

  • Prestige Bias is similar to content bias but is on a more personal level. Prestige bias involves observing how the most elite or successful people in society lived and trying to do things based on imitating them.
  • Conformist bias is simply imitating the most popular way of doing things. It comes through observation and over time gaining an understanding of cultural standards. For example, if someone from North America visited China, they would notice many different cultural customs in day to day interactions and language patterns, and by observing what most people do they could imitate it to act in a way more suited to that culture.
  • Individual learning is basically shaping cultural standards by figuring things out on your own, and not requiring observation of the previous cultural standards to function. This type of learning often takes place when cultures change very rapidly, because in those instances cultural transmission gets more limited the faster the culture changes.


  1. Heinrich, McElreath, J, R (2007). Dual inheritance theory: The evolution of human cultural capacities and cultural evolution.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.