View More View Less
  • 1 Mälardalen University, Sweden
  • | 2 Center for cultural evolution, Wallenberglaboratoriet, Stockholm University, SE-106 91, Stockholm, Sweden
  • | 3 University of Bologna, Italy
  • | 4 Stockholm University, Sweden
Restricted access

Abstract

Existing mathematical models suggest that gene-culture coevolution favours a conformist bias in social learning, that is, a psychological mechanism to preferentially acquire the most common cultural variants. Here we show that this conclusion relies on specific assumptions that seem unrealistic, such as that all cultural variants are known to every individual. We present two models that remove these assumptions, showing that: 1) the rate of cultural evolution and the adaptive value of culture are higher in a population in which individuals pick cultural variants at random (Random strategy) rather than picking the most common one (Conform strategy); 2) in genetic evolution the Random strategy out-competes the Conform strategy, unless cultural evolution is very slow, in which case Conform and Random usually coexist; 3) the individuals’ ability to evaluate cultural variants is a more important determinant of the adaptive value of culture than frequency-based choice strategies. We also review existing empirical literature and game-theoretic arguments for conformity, finding neither strong empirical evidence nor a strong theoretical expectation for a general conformist bias. Our own vignette study of social learning shows that people may indeed use different social learning strategies depending on context.

  • Asch, S. E. (1952): Social Psychology. Prentice-Hall.

  • Boyd, R. and Richerson, P. J. (1985): Culture and the Evolutionary Process. University of Chicago Press.

  • Cooper, R. W. (1999): Coordination Games. Cambridge University Press.

  • J. C. Coultas 2004 When in Rome. An evolutionary perspective on conformity Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 7 317 331.

  • C. Efferson P. J. Richerson R. Mcelreath M. Lubell E. Edsten T. M. Waring B. Paciotti W. Baum 2007 Learning, productivity, and noise: An experimental study of cultural transmission on the Bolivian Altiplano Evolution and Human Behavior 28 11 17.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • M. Enquist S. Ghirlanda 2007 Evolution of imitation does not explain the origin of human cumulative culture Journal of Theoretical Biology 246 129 135.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Enquist M. , Eriksson, K., and Ghirlanda, S. (2007): Critical social learning: A solution to Rogers’ paradox of non-adaptive culture. American Anthropologist, in press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • J. Henrich R. Boyd 1998 The evolution of conformist transmission and between-group differences Evolution and Human Behavior 19 215 242.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • J. Henrich R. Boyd 2001 Why people punish defectors: conformist transmission stabilizes costly enforcement of norms in cooperative dilemmas Journal of Theoretical Biology 208 79 89.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • T. A. Kohler S. van Buskirk S. Ruscavage-Barz 2004 Vessels and villages: evidence for conformist transmission in early village aggregations on the Pajarito Plateau, New Mexico Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 23 100 118.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mameli, M. (2007): Understanding culture: a commentary on RICHERSON and BOYD's not by genes alone. Biology and Philosophy, in press.

  • K. Matsuyama 2002 Explaining diversity: Symmetry-breaking in complementarity games American Economic Review 92 241 246.

  • R. McElreath M. Lubell P. J. Richerson T. M. Waring W. Baum E. Edsten C. Efferson B. Paciotti 2005 Applying evolutionary models to the laboratory study of social learning Evolution and Human Behavior 26 483 508.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Richerson, P. J. and Boyd, R. (2005): Not by Genes Alone. University of Chicago Press.

Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 
Language English
Size  
Year of
Foundation
2007 (2003)
Publication
Programme
changed title
Volumes
per Year
 
Issues
per Year
 
Founder Akadémiai Kiadó
Founder's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 1789-2082 (Print)
ISSN 2060-5587 (Online)

Monthly Content Usage

Abstract Views Full Text Views PDF Downloads
Feb 2021 4 0 0
Mar 2021 26 0 0
Apr 2021 7 0 0
May 2021 20 1 2
Jun 2021 11 0 0
Jul 2021 11 0 0
Aug 2021 0 0 0