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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Jeremy Kendal

Kendal, J.R. (2011). Cultural niche construction and human learning environments: investigating socio-cultural perspectives. Biological Theory 6(3): 241-250.

Author(s) from Durham


Niche construction theory (NCT) can be applied to examine the influence of culturally constructed learning environments on the acquisition and retention of beliefs, values, role expectations, and skills. Thus, NCT provides a quantitative framework to account for cultural-historical contingency affecting development and cultural evolution. Learning in a culturally constructed environment is of central concern to many sociologists, cognitive scientists, and sociocultural anthropologists, albeit often from different perspectives. This article summarizes four pertinent theories from these fields—situated learning, activity theory, practice theory, and distributed cognition. As a basis for interdisciplinary investigation, the article considers how these theories may be addressed using a cultural niche-construction framework, including the utility of an embedded model that explicitly accounts for effects of the constructed learning environment on within-individual learning dynamics in an evolutionary framework.