Biology and culture shape brain development and learning

Led by Christina Hinton

Cultural evolution has vastly outpaced biological evolution. A baby born into this situation would flounder if it were not for a remarkable quality of the brain – plasticity – and a key institution – schools. The brain is fundamentally adaptive, and culture is a vital ingredient in its development. Babies are born with evolutionarily endowed biological predispositions, and they build on these basic inclinations as they learn from the culture around them. With schools, children can learn vast amounts of cultural knowledge in just a matter of years. This is how an evolutionary endowed capacity for language has been extended to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Le Monde, and the Internet.