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Estudos de Psicologia (Natal)

On-line version ISSN 1678-4669


PAGNOTTA, Murillo  and  RESENDE, Briseida Dogo. The controversy over the attribution of culture to nonhuman animals: a critical review. Estud. psicol. (Natal) [online]. 2013, vol.18, n.4, pp.569-577. ISSN 1678-4669.

In recent decades, animal behaviorists have attributed culture to non-human animals, starting a controversy with socio-cultural anthropologists that is still far from cooling down. In order to better understand this controversy, and to identify possible paths that might lead to a consensus, we reviewed the meanings of the term culture as used by socio-cultural anthropologists, and also the history of its use in ethology (specially primatology). We argue that socio-cultural anthropologists and ethologists disagree in terms of their theories and worldviews. In order to reach a synthetic approach to human and non-human animal behavior, without ignoring species-typical characteristics, it is desirable to search for consensus in both levels. The questions of symbols and of meanings are central to the anthropological notion of culture; therefore it will be necessary to discuss how to include them in a comparative perspective. We conclude that a direction of consensus may be found in theoretical approaches that are critical to the related dichotomies of nature-culture, innate-acquired and gene-environment.

Keywords : culture; learning; development; ethology; anthropology.

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