Home > Mental health > News Updated 15 November 2013 Social networks make us smarter Cultures become endangered without mentors and strong social networks, says new research. 0 iStock Related Sociable people have different brains Is Facebook turning you into a ‘slacktivist’? Troubled teens explain dark side of 'chat rooms' Ask CyberShrink » Talk Heart to heart forum » 13 hidden signs of stress Regenerative medicine: replacing brain cells lost from stroke The secret to why some cultures thrive and others disappear may lie in our social networks and our ability to imitate, rather than our individual smarts, according to a new University of British Columbia study.The study, published by the Proceedings of the Royal Academy: Biological Sciences, shows that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group’s average skill over successive generations.The findings show that a larger population size and social connectedness are crucial for the development of more sophisticated technologies and cultural knowledge, says lead author Michael Muthukrishna, a PhD student in UBC’s Dept. of Psychology.“This is the first study to demonstrate in a laboratory setting what archaeologists and evolutionary theorists have long suggested: that there is an important link between a society’s sociality and the sophistication of its technology,” says Muthukrishna, who co-authored the research with UBC Prof. Joseph Henrich.How the study was doneFor the study, participants were asked to learn new skills – digital photo editing and knot-tying – and then pass on what they learned to the next “generation” of participants. The groups with greater access to experts accumulated significantly more skill than those with less access to teachers. Within ten “generations,” each member of the group with multiple mentors had stronger skills than the group limited to a single mentor.Groups with greater access to experts also retained their skills much longer than groups who began with less access to mentors, sustaining higher levels of “cultural knowledge” over multiple generations.According to the researchers, the study has important implications for several areas, from skills development and education to protecting endangered languages and cultural practices. EurekAlert More in Mental health Surfing through selfies linked to low self-esteem More: Mental healthNews advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 0 comments Comments have been closed for this article. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... Other news Mental health Childhood PTSD may leave lasting imprint on brain Lifestyle Rudeness in workplace costs companies dearly Mental health New tool to predict survival odds after brain injury Mental health Surfing through selfies linked to low self-esteem Lifestyle SEE: 8 places to go hiking in South Africa this summer Medical SEE: 10 medical discoveries that changed the world From our sponsors Keep an eye on your vision Which skin products are better, ‘medical grade’ or ‘over-the-counter’? Win 1 of 6 R5000 cash prizes Win a R2 000 Skin Renewal voucher Live healthier Exercise benefits for seniors » Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them. No relief for MS » Drug shows promise against MS in mouse study Vitamin D may slow multiple sclerosis Obesity in girls tied to higher MS risk Exercise may not lower women's risk of MS A Harvard study showed no evidence to support the idea that exercise lowers the risk of multiple sclerosis.