Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Culture

System of shared meanings, symbols, customs, beliefs, and practices that are learned either through teaching or by imitation and that are used to cope with the environment, to communicate with others, and to transmit information from one generation to the next; learned rather than instinctive and genetically transmitted behavior. Culture is one of the primary modes of adaptation available to humans, and perhaps other animals. Cultural elements are generated through innovation, and may be labels, arbitrary signals, skills (such as tool use), or symbols; only humans display all four kinds of elements, whereas many primates are reported to exhibit the first three kinds; see primate culture and aptitude for culture.

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