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Accès libre

Cultural transmission in a food preparation task: The role of interactivity, innovation and storytelling.

, Bietti, Lucas, Bangerter, Adrian, Knutsen, Dominique, Mayor, Eric

Interactive conversation drives the transmission of cultural information in small groups and large networks. In formal (e.g. schools) and informal (e.g. home) learning settings, interactivity does not only allow individuals and groups to faithfully transmit and learn new knowledge and skills, but also to boost cumulative cultural evolution. Here we investigate how interactivity affects performance, teaching, learning, innovation and chosen diffusion mode (e.g. instructional discourse vs. storytelling) of previously acquired information in a transmission chain experiment. In our experiment, participants (n = 288) working in 48 chains with three generations of pairs had to learn and complete a collaborative food preparation task (ravioli-making), and then transmit their experience to a new generation of participants in an interactive and non-interactive condition. Food preparation is a real-world task that it is taught and learned across cultures and transmitted over generations in families and groups. Pairs were defined as teachers or learners depending on their role in the transmission chain. The number of good exemplars of ravioli each pair produced was taken as measurement of performance. Contrary to our expectations, the results did not reveal that (1) performance increased over generations or that (2) interactivity in transmission sessions promoted increased performance. However, the results showed that (3) interactivity promoted the transmission of more information from teachers to learners; (4) increased quantity of information transmission from teachers led to higher performance in learners; (5) higher performance generations introduced more innovations in transmission sessions; (6) learners applied those transmitted innovations to their performance which made them persist over generations; (7) storytelling was specialized for the transmission of non-routine, unexpected information. Our findings offer new insights on how interactivity, innovation and storytelling affect the cultural transmission of complex collaborative tasks.