Cultural Learning

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  • Cultural learning enables the transmission of knowledge and skills from one individual, and one generation, to the next. (Such learning can be contrasted with the genetic transmission of information, based on biological inheritance, and with individual learning, based on a learner's own experiences with the environment.) The importance of cultural learning in language development is, thus, self-evident: Children learn the specific language(s) used by their caregivers and others in the community—a process that is independent of any biological relatedness and cannot plausibly be explained by individual learning. Rather, children acquire the language of their community in the flow of social interactions, guided by their early social-cognitive abilities. These social-cognitive abilities help children to determine (1) what to learn and (2) whom to learn from.

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