Biological Theory 13 (4):213-227 (2018)

Abstract
On the basis of recent advancements in both neuroscience and archaeology, we propose a plausible biocultural mechanism at the basis of cultural evolution. The proposed mechanism, which relies on the notions of cultural exaptation and cultural neural reuse, may account for the asynchronous, discontinuous, and patchy emergence of innovations around the globe. Cultural exaptation refers to the reuse of previously devised cultural features for new purposes. Cultural neural reuse refers to cases in which exposure to cultural practices induces the formation, activation, and stabilization of new functional and/or structural brain networks during the individual lifespan. The invention of writing is interpreted as a case of cultural exaptation of previous devices to record information, in use since at least the Early Later Stone Age and the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic. The measurable changes in brain structure and functioning caused by learning to read are proposed as an exemplar case of cultural neural reuse. It is argued that repeated cycles of cultural exaptation, development of appropriate strategies of cultural transmission, and ensuing cultural neural reuse represent the fundamental mechanism that has regulated the cultural evolution of our lineage. A general predictive model of when and under which circumstances the proposed mechanism should be expected to occur is proposed, and the relationship of our mechanism with gene-culture coevolutionary models is discussed.
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DOI 10.1007/s13752-018-0306-x
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References found in this work BETA

Exaptation–A Missing Term in the Science of Form.Stephen Jay Gould & Elisabeth S. Vrba - 1982 - In David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Philosophy of Biology. Oxford University Press.
Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word.Walter J. Ong - 1983 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 16 (4):270-271.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Role of Culture and Evolution for Human Cognition.Andrea Bender - 2020 - Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (4):1403-1420.
Afterword: Tough Questions; Hard Problems; Incremental Progress.Kim Sterelny - 2020 - Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (2):766-783.
The Imagination and Its Technological Destiny.Pietro Montani - 2020 - Open Philosophy 3 (1):187-201.

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