Understanding culture across species

Richard W. Byrne, Philip J. Barnard, Iain Davidson, Vincent M. Janik, William C. McGrew, Ádam Miklósi, Polly Wiessner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Citations (Scopus)


Recent claims of culture in great apes have provoked fervent argument about the 'true' definition of culture, most of which has been unhelpful. Instead, a range of definitions should be used to explore different aspects of the cognitive processes that together result in human culture, many of which can be productively studied in non-humans. A richer cognitive account of the contents of culture needs to be developed and used to compare animal and human cultures, instead of sterile searching for a cognitive Rubicon between them. Exploring six views of culture, this article highlights the fundamental contrast of whether culture evolves as a by-product of cumulative change in cognitive mechanisms, or whether it is actively selected for its advantages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-346
Number of pages6
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this

Byrne, R. W., Barnard, P. J., Davidson, I., Janik, V. M., McGrew, W. C., Miklósi, Á., & Wiessner, P. (2004). Understanding culture across species. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(8), 341-346. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2004.06.002