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Cultural learning and educational process

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2010

David R. Olson
Centre for Applied Cognitive Science, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaM5S 1V6 Electronic mail: d_olson@utoroise.bitnet
Janet Wilde Astington
Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaM5S 1A1 Electronic mail:


Tomasello, Kruger & Ratner relate the evolution of social cognition – the understanding of others' minds – to the evolution of culture. Tomasello et al. conceive of the accumulation of culture as the product of cultural learning, a kind of learning dependent upon recognizing others' intentionality. They distinguish three levels of this recognition: of intention (what is x trying to do), of beliefs (what does x think about p), and of beliefs about beliefs (what does x think y thinks about p). They then tie these levels to three discrete forms of cultural learning – imitative, instructed, and collaborative – which children become capable of when they are 9 months, 4 years, and 6 years old respectively, at least in Western culture where relevant data are available.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1993

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