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Cultural-Historical Psychology

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1816-5435

ISSN (online): 2224-8935


License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Started in 2005

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On the Problem of “Culture” in Animals: Critical Analysis of Modern Researches from the Point of View of Activity Theory of A.N. Leontiev’s Scientific School 2098

Sokolova E.E.
PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of General Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Fedorovich E.Y.
PhD in Psychology, Senior Researcher, Department of General Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

The article provides an overview and critical analysis — from the point of view of activity theory of A.N. Leontiev’s scientific school — of the contemporary foreign studies of the so-called culture and “social learning” in animals. It reveals the methodological inconsistency of identifying the “behavioral traditions” in animals with human culture, based on the description of emergence and maintenance of some of the seemingly similar forms of their cultural behavior. “Culture” in animals and human culture have different origins and therefore are qualitatively different from each other, at least in four characteristics of the process of acquisition and mastering cultural skills selected by the authors of the article. This qualitative difference is primarily based on the unity of subject-object and subject-subject relationship in any activities making part of human child’s culture, let alone the activity of an adult, while the animals have no such unity in their “cultural behavior”. At the same time the article shows how new data in the field of animal psychology allow reconsidering and adjusting certain postulates of activity theory of A.N. Leontiev’s scientific school, while preserving the principle methodological foundations of this concept.

Keywords: culture in animals, behavioural traditions, social learning in animals, tool usage, Activity Theory, A.N. Leontiev’s Scientific School

Column: Issues In Cultural Activity Theory


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