The archaeology of teaching and the evolution of Homo docens

Gardenfors, Peter ; Hogberg, Anders (2017-4)

CITATION: Gärdenfors, P. & Högberg, A. 2017. The Archaeology of Teaching and the Evolution of Homo docens. Current Anthropology, 58(2):188-208. doi:10.1086/691178.

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Teaching is present in all human societies, while within other species it is very limited. Something happened during the evolution of Homo sapiens that also made us Homo docens—the teaching animal. Based on discussions of animal and hominin learning, we analyze the evolution of intentional teaching by a series of levels that require increasing capacities of mind reading and communication on the part of the teacher and the learner. The levels of teaching are (1) intentional evaluative feedback, (2) drawing attention, (3) demonstrating, (4) communicating concepts, and (5) explaining relations between concepts. We suggest that level after level has been added during the evolution of teaching.We demonstrate how different technologies depend on increasing sophistication in the levels of cognition and communication required for teaching them. As regards the archaeological evidence for the different levels, we argue that stable transmission of the Oldowan technology requires at least teaching by demonstration and that learning the late Acheulean hand-axe technology requires at least communicating concepts. We conclude that H. docens preceded H. sapiens.

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