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The classic anthropological definition of culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (E. B. Tylor 1871). However it is defined, it is agreed that culture is passed on from generation to generation—or "horizontally" between individuals and collectivities—in a manner that involves “social learning” rather than specific genetic programming. Culture is divisible into "traits" (single items) and "complexes" (more or less integrated or institutionalized collections of traits). Culture typically is thought of as though it were attached to or identified with particular groups or societies or peoples. “Social learning” is by definition a necessary condition for culture. If social learning is also considered a sufficient condition for culture, then many species besides humans have culture. Scholars disagree whether social learning is really all there is to culture or, alternatively, whether there are some defining features of human culture that make it fundamentally distinct from animal culture. While this is a semantic problem it is also a serious scientific matter. If chimpanzees, for example, share the crucial mental ingredients for culture with humans it would be reasonable to hypothesize that chimpanzee- and human culture are homologous, meaning that each species’ capacity for culture traces to their common ancestry. If, however, human culture is something distinct, then such similarities as there are between chimpanzee and human cultures make them analogous but independent developments. Some scholars argue that fundamental features of human culture are far more recent than the split between chimpanzees and humans. Thus some scholars say that animals have traditions but not culture. Others use such terms as protoculture for animals.
Human culture is vastly more complex than that of any other species. The moralization of culture (the "right" vs. other ways to do things) may be distinctive of human culture.
Culture is found in all human societies, past or present.
The greater complexity of human culture may reflect differences in the processes of cultural transmission. In nonhuman primates it usually consists of emulation (seeing a result and duplicating it through trial and error) whereas humans normally imitate (focusing on how the result was achieved and then attempting to duplicate the same steps to the result). Moreover, explicit instruction is common among humans but rare or absent among other species. Humans, unlike other species, often or normally insist upon there is a right way to do things. Specific human cultural universals account for a more rapid and extensive cultural development than in other species. Narrative and intentional instruction directly enhance the transmission of culture. Fire and cooking, by altering the demographics of humans, gave greater scope to cultural innovation and variation. Human speech greatly enhanced the transmission of culture.
In its broadest definition culture is found in many species.
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