Iterated learning and the evolution of language

Simon Kirby, Tom Griffiths, Kenny Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iterated learning describes the process whereby an individual learns their behaviour by exposure to another individual's behaviour, who themselves learnt it in the same way. It can be seen as a key mechanism of cultural evolution. We review various methods for understanding how behaviour is shaped by the iterated learning process: computational agent-based simulations; mathematical modelling; and laboratory experiments in humans and non-human animals. We show how this framework has been used to explain the origins of structure in language, and argue that cultural evolution must be considered alongside biological evolution in explanations of language origins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-114
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Neurobiology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2014

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