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date: 18 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the potency of combining cross-cultural, comparative, and developmental studies for understanding the dynamics of the interplay between cultural context and inherited predispositions during human development. This combined approach has contributed to our understanding of the emergence of cross-cultural variation in some of the most basic human cognitive functions such as spatial cognition, numerical cognition, visual perception, and social cognition. The same combined approach is also key to understanding human cultural variability in contrast to that found in other species: although there is now good evidence for population-level variation in apes and other animals, human’s vary in a wider repertoire of behaviors of which a larger proportion is socially acquired. By combining comparative, developmental, and cross-cultural studies, we may understand the species-typical psychological mechanisms that create, structure, and maintain uniquely human cultural variability.

Keywords: infancy, primates, evolution, phylogenetic comparative methods, physical cognition, social cognition, cultural variability

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