Brown bag du 09/04/2018 Cristina-Ioana Galusca Center of Brain and Cognition, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona



The rapid acquisition of verbal information: mechanisms at play

How humans transmit the complex set of behaviours and beliefs that comprise their cultures is still poorly understood. For thousands of years spoken languages were the sole medium for learning and transmitting culture, so remembering what one heard, the strengths and limits of human memory and the mechanism affecting its efficiency were even more crucial at the beginning of cultural evolution. To this day, the way information is communicated, and how this affects memory, play a major role in cultural transmission. In a set of studies, we began the investigation of the psychological mechanisms that might ensure the successful transmission of spoken messages. From the countless dimensions of human communication, we focused our investigation on three factors and their associated mechanisms: memory; how messages are communicated in a teacher-learner situation and the content of verbal messages. First, I will present data showing that the presence of ostension (for example, eye contact or pointing) can boost the long-term retention of information about individual objects (in children and adults) and even of novel labels (in children). I will also show that kind-referring information is privileged in long-term memory, and interestingly, it can support the long-term retention of novel labels. Finally, I will discuss the implications of these findings, and suggest future research on cultural transmission, outside the domain of verbal communication.