Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Social networks make us smarter

Date:
November 13, 2013
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
The secret to why some cultures thrive and others disappear may lie in our social networks and our ability to imitate, rather than our individual smarts, according to a new study.

New research shows that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group's average skill over successive generations.
Credit: spotmatikphoto / Fotolia

The secret to why some cultures thrive and others disappear may lie in our social networks and our ability to imitate, rather than our individual smarts, according to a new University of British Columbia study.

The study, published today by the Proceedings of the Royal Academy: Biological Sciences, shows that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group's average skill over successive generations.

The findings show that a larger population size and social connectedness are crucial for the development of more sophisticated technologies and cultural knowledge, says lead author Michael Muthukrishna, a PhD student in UBC's Dept. of Psychology.

"This is the first study to demonstrate in a laboratory setting what archeologists and evolutionary theorists have long suggested: that there is an important link between a society's sociality and the sophistication of its technology," says Muthukrishna, who co-authored the research with UBC Prof. Joseph Henrich.

For the study, participants were asked to learn new skills -- digital photo editing and knot-tying -- and then pass on what they learned to the next "generation" of participants. The groups with greater access to experts accumulated significantly more skill than those with less access to teachers. Within ten "generations," each member of the group with multiple mentors had stronger skills than the group limited to a single mentor.

Groups with greater access to experts also retained their skills much longer than groups who began with less access to mentors, sustaining higher levels of "cultural knowledge" over multiple generations.

According to the researchers, the study has important implications for several areas, from skills development and education to protecting endangered languages and cultural practices.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Muthukrishna, B. W. Shulman, V. Vasilescu, J. Henrich. Sociality influences cultural complexity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 281 (1774): 20132511 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2511

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Social networks make us smarter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131113105701.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2013, November 13). Social networks make us smarter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131113105701.htm
University of British Columbia. "Social networks make us smarter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131113105701.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins