Cultural transmission of ethnobotanical knowledge and skills: an empirical analysis from an Amerindian society

Victoria Reyes-García*, James Broesch, Laura Calvet-Mir, Nuria Fuentes-Peláez, Thomas W. McDade, Sorush Parsa, Susan Tanner, Tomás Huanca, William R. Leonard, Maria R. Martínez-Rodríguez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


The modeling of cultural transmission is of great importance for understanding the maintenance, erosion, and spread of cultural traits and innovations. Researchers have hypothesized that, unlike biological transmission, cultural transmission occurs through at least three different, non-mutually exclusive paths: (1) from parents (vertical); (2) from age peers (horizontal); and (3) from older generations (oblique). We used data from 270 adults in a society in the Bolivian Amazon to estimate the association between a person's knowledge and skills and the knowledge and skills of the (1) same-sex parent, (2) age peers (or individuals born in the same village as the subject within ±4 years of the subject's year of birth), and (3) parental cohort (excluding parents). We found a statistically significant association between personal and parental and old cohort knowledge. The magnitude of the association is larger for old cohort knowledge than for parental knowledge, suggesting that, for the studied population, the transmission of ethnobotanical knowledge and skills is mostly oblique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-285
Number of pages12
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Bolivia
  • Ethnobotanical knowledge
  • Oblique transmission
  • Transmission of knowledge
  • Tsimane'

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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