[Paper spotlight] Social Networks and Knowledge Transmission Strategies among Baka Children, Southeastern Cameroon

A new paper by Gallois and colleagues in Human Nature examines the flow of knowledge in networks along the Baka. Check it out here!

Abstract: The dynamics of knowledge transmission and acquisition, or how different aspects of culture are passed from one individual to another and how they are acquired and embodied by individuals, are central to understanding cultural evolution. In small-scale societies, cultural knowledge is largely acquired early in life through observation, imitation, and other forms of social learning embedded in daily experiences. However, little is known about the pathways through which such knowledge is transmitted, especially during middle childhood and adolescence. This study presents new empirical data on cultural knowledge transmission during childhood. Data were collected among the Baka, a forager-farmer society in southeastern Cameroon. We conducted structured interviews with children between 5 and 16 years of age (n = 58 children; 177 interviews, with children being interviewed 1–6 times) about group composition during subsistence activities. Children’s groups were generally diverse, although children tended to perform subsistence activities primarily without adults and with same-sex companions. Group composition varied from one subsistence activity to another, which suggests that the flow of knowledge might also vary according to the activity performed. Analysis of the social composition of children’s subsistence groups shows that vertical and oblique transmission of subsistence-related knowledge might not be predominant during middle childhood and adolescence. Rather, horizontal transmission appears to be the most common knowledge transmission strategy used by Baka children during middle childhood and adolescence, highlighting the importance of other children in the transmission of knowledge.

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