Communication Development in Infants: the Case of the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania

Report summary

The way children learn to communicate verbally and non-verbally depends to a great extent on  th ec u lture in which they are raised. Much is known about the social environment of children living inWestern societies, and some is known about those living in many non-Western societies, but muchless is known about how children are socialized in hunter-gatherer societies. The objective of the proposed project is to gain insights into the development of communication in hunter-gatherer children. The project’s aims are

  • to develop a minimAlly intrusive data collection method that gives access to the learning process by including physiological measures.
  • to analyze physiological responses to infants’ verbal and non-verbal interactions with their social environment focusing on the Hadza, as a particularly interesting cultural community.
  • extract patterns in data from diverse sources (audio, video, observation, electrophysiological measures) with automated data mining techniques.

The approach is interdisciplinary, integrating methods from anthropology and ethology with modern physiological assessment methods, innovative wearable technology and data mining techniques. It is important to know more about the development of communication in Hadza infants as communication in hunter-gatherers has not been comprehensively studied and the Hadza are a community living in
conditions that resemble our ancestors’ living conditions. This helps to shed light on the evolution of language in our species. As hunter-gatherer societies are increasingly threatened due to ecological, economic and political changes in their environment, it is crucial to conduct this research as soon as possible.