Research article

Learning to be Human: teaching, culture and human cognitive evolution



Psychology has taken an evolutionary turn of late. This paper acknowledges the importance of adopting an evolutionary perspective in attempting to understand human cognition and development, but it suggests that the model adopted by many evolutionary psychologists is incomplete. Learning, teaching and cultural transmission play vital roles in the distinctive human life pattern, but have received inadequate attention in the literature. Drawing upon primatological, anthropological and psychological data, this paper offers an articulation of 'cultural learning', which, it is claimed, is a peculiarly accurate and resilient form of social form, made possible by the uniquely human capacity for an intersubjective engagement with the mental and intentional lives of other people. The paper discusses the character and appearance of imitative, collaborative and instructed forms of learning within early childhood, and tentatively identifies implications for child development and contemporary schooling.


How to Cite: Bailey, R. (2003) “Learning to be Human: teaching, culture and human cognitive evolution”, London Review of Education. 1(3). doi: