David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Much human adaptation depends on the gradual accumulation of culturally transmitted knowledge and technology. Recent models of this process predict that large, well-connected populations will have more diverse and complex tool kits than small, isolated populations. While several examples of the loss of technology in small populations are consistent with this prediction, it found no support in two systematic quantitative tests. Both studies were based on data from continental populations in which contact rates were not available, and therefore these studies do not provide a test of the models. Here, we show that in Oceania, around the time of early European contact, islands with small populations had less complicated marine foraging technology. This ﬁnding suggests that explanations of existing cultural variation based on optimality models alone are incomplete because demography plays an important role in generating cumulative cultural adaptation. It also indicates that hominin populations with similar cognitive abilities may leave very different archaeological records, a conclusion that has important implications for our understanding of the origin of anatomically modern humans and their evolved psychology.
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Citations of this work BETA
Alberto Acerbi & Alex Mesoudi (2015). If We Are All Cultural Darwinians What’s the Fuss About? Clarifying Recent Disagreements in the Field of Cultural Evolution. Biology and Philosophy 30 (4):481-503.
Mark Collard, Briggs Buchanan, April Ruttle & Michael J. O'Brien (2011). Niche Construction and the Toolkits of Hunter–Gatherers and Food Producers. Biological Theory 6 (3):251-259.
Derek Hodgson (2013). Cognitive Evolution, Population, Transmission, and Material Culture. Biological Theory 7 (3):237-246.
Cristine H. Legare & Mark Nielsen (2015). Imitation and Innovation: The Dual Engines of Cultural Learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 19 (11):688-699.
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