Animal innovation defined and operationalized

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (4):393-407 (2007)
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Abstract

Innovation is a key component of most definitions of culture and intelligence. Additionally, innovations may affect a species' ecology and evolution. Nonetheless, conceptual and empirical work on innovation has only recently begun. In particular, largely because the existing operational definition (first occurrence in a population) requires long-term studies of populations, there has been no systematic study of innovation in wild animals. To facilitate such study, we have produced a new definition of innovation: Innovation is the process that generates in an individual a novel learned behavior that is not simply a consequence of social learning or environmental induction. Using this definition, we propose a new operational approach for distinguishing innovations in the field. The operational criteria employ information from the following sources: (1) the behavior's geographic and local prevalence and individual frequency; (2) properties of the behavior, such as the social role of the behavior, the context in which the behavior is exhibited, and its similarity to other behaviors; (3) changes in the occurrence of the behavior over time; and (4) knowledge of spontaneous or experimentally induced behavior in captivity. These criteria do not require long-term studies at a single site, but information from multiple populations of a species will generally be needed. These criteria are systematized into a dichotomous key that can be used to assess whether a behavior observed in the field is likely to be an innovation

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Citations of this work

Three Kinds of Niche Construction.Bendik Hellem Aaby & Grant Ramsey - 2022 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):351-372.
Animal cognition.Kristin Andrews - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Culture in humans and other animals.Grant Ramsey - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (3):457-479.

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