Public Library of Science
Our species exhibits spectacular success due to cumulative culture. While cognitive evolution of social learning mechanisms may be partially responsible for adaptive human culture, features of early human social structure may also play a role by increasing the number potential models from which to learn innovations. We present interview data on interactions between same-sex adult dyads of Ache and Hadza hunter-gatherers living in multiple distinct residential bands (20 Ache bands; 42 Hadza bands; 1201 dyads) throughout a tribal home range. Results show high probabilities (5%–29% per year) of cultural and cooperative interactions between randomly chosen adults. Multiple regression suggests that ritual relationships increase interaction rates more than kinship, and that affinal kin interact more often than dyads with no relationship. These may be important features of human sociality. Finally, yearly interaction rates along with survival data allow us to estimate expected lifetime partners for a variety of social activities, and compare those to chimpanzees. Hadza and Ache men are estimated to observe over 300 men making tools in a lifetime, whereas male chimpanzees interact with only about 20 other males in a lifetime. High intergroup interaction rates in ancestral humans may have promoted the evolution of cumulative culture.
Hill, K.R., Wood, B.M., Baggio, J., Hurtado A.M., Boyd R.T. (2014). Hunter-Gatherer Inter-Band Interaction Rates: Implications for Cumulative Culture. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102806.