“Wisdom of the Elders? The Distribution of Ethnobiological Knowledge in a Tropical Forest Community”

Here is an event that some of you may be interested in! It is about the transmission of ethnobiological knowledge in Nicaragua.

On Friday January 23, Jeremy Koster (University of Cincinnati) will be giving a talk entitled:

“Wisdom of the Elders? The Distribution of Ethnobiological Knowledge in a Tropical Forest Community”

This lecture is part of this year’s Lang Colloquium Series, the schedule for which can be
found here https://web.stanford.edu/dept/anthropology/cgi-bin/web/?q=view/lang

January 23 from 3:15 – 5:05pm
Building 50, Room 51A


In detail:

Wisdom of the Elders?: The Distribution of Ethnobiological Knowledge in a Tropical Forest Community
Jeremy Koster
Assistant Professor
Anthropology, University of Cincinnati

A common assumption is that individuals continue to accumulate ethnobiological knowledge throughout their lives, resulting in greater expertise among the elder generations. Alternative theoretical perspectives suggest that ethnobiological knowledge about animals should peak earlier in life, paralleling and facilitating the emergence of foraging proficiency among younger adults. We test these competing models among indigenous Nicaraguans with three measures of knowledge about fish behavior.

Our results indicate that individuals exhibit considerable domain knowledge as relatively young adults. There is also a positive correlation between knowledge and fishing ability, suggesting that knowledge promotes and develops from specialization and the allocation of effort to fishing. We also report evidence of vertical transmission, as parents and their
adolescent offspring display greater similarity of beliefs about fish behavior than other matched dyads. These results imply a model of humans as flexible learners, assimilating ethnobiological knowledge via social learning and related experiences.

Contrary to conventional perspectives, we suggest that age-related variation in knowledge among adults is attributable primarily to proximate factors such as acculturation, time allocation to related productive tasks, and social learning opportunities.

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