From Copying to Coordination: An Alternative Framework for Understanding Cultural Learning Mechanisms

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Mathieu Charbonneau Assistant Professor, Africa Institute for Research in Economics and Social Sciences, Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique Rabat Morocco

Search for other papers by Mathieu Charbonneau in
Current site
Google Scholar
James W. A. Strachan Researcher, Cognition, Motion and Neuroscience Unit, Center for Human Technologies, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia Genoa Italy

Search for other papers by James W. A. Strachan in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



Copying has been a productive paradigm for the study of cultural learning. Copying is about information transmission, the success of which is measured by the similarity of knowledge between models and learners. In this paper, we identify some shortcomings in the use of copying mechanisms (e.g., imitation, emulation) as explanations of cultural learning, emphasizing their focus on the flow of information (from expert to novice) instead of on the specific interactions involved during episodes of learning. We argue that the micro-interactions between models and learners and how they coordinate with one another better explain how knowledge is passed on between individuals. We propose to understand cultural learning as a form of interpersonal coordination, i.e., as the result of dynamic interactions involving mutual behavioral alignment between two interacting agents. We sketch how a coordination framework provides a richer picture of cultural learning, with more explanatory power than the copying paradigm.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 495 126 18
Full Text Views 59 32 14
PDF Views & Downloads 130 63 37