Schooling, local knowledge and working memory: A study among three contemporary hunter-gatherer societies

Victoria Reyes-García, Aili Pyhälä, Isabel Díaz-Reviriego, Romain Duda, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Sandrine Gallois, Maximilien Guèze, Lucentezza Napitupulu

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15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2016 Reyes-García et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Researchers have analysed whether school and local knowledge complement or substitute each other, but have paid less attention to whether those two learning models use different cognitive strategies. In this study, we use data collected among three contemporary huntergatherer societies with relatively low levels of exposure to schooling yet with high levels of local ecological knowledge to test the association between i) schooling and ii) local ecological knowledge and verbal working memory. Participants include 94 people (24 Baka, 25 Punan, and 45 Tsimane') from whom we collected information on 1) schooling and school related skills (i.e., literacy and numeracy), 2) local knowledge and skills related to hunting and medicinal plants, and 3) working memory. To assess working memory, we applied a multi-trial free recall using words relevant to each cultural setting. People with and without schooling have similar levels of accurate and inaccurate recall, although they differ in their strategies to organize recall: people with schooling have higher results for serial clustering, suggesting better learning with repetition, whereas people without schooling have higher results for semantic clustering, suggesting they organize recall around semantically meaningful categories. Individual levels of local ecological knowledge are not related to accurate recall or organization recall, arguably due to overall high levels of local ecological knowledge. While schooling seems to favour some organization strategies this might come at the expense of some other organization strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0145265
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2016

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