Much existing literature in anthropology suggests that teaching is rare in non-Western societies, and that culturaltransmission is mostly vertical (parent-to-offspring). However, applications of evolutionary theory to humans predict both teaching and non-vertical transmission of culturally learned skills, behaviors, and knowledge should be common cross-culturally. Here, we review this body of theory to derive predictions about when teaching and non-vertical transmission should be adaptive, and thus more likely to be observed empirically. Using three interviews conducted with (...) rural Fijian populations, we find that parents are more likely to teach than are other kin types, high-skill and highly valued domains are more likely to be taught, and oblique transmission is associated with high-skill domains, which are learned later in life. Finally, we conclude that the apparent conflict between theory and empirical evidence is due to a mismatch of theoretical hypotheses and empirical claims across disciplines, and we reconcile theory with the existing literature in light of our results. (shrink)
This paper presents the hypothesis that linguistic capacity evolved through the action of natural selection as an instrument which increased the efficiency of the culturaltransmission system of early hominids. We suggest that during the early stages of hominization, hominid social learning, based on indirect social learning mechanisms and true imitation, came to constitute cumulative culturaltransmission based on true imitation and the approval or disapproval of the learned behaviour of offspring. A key factor for this (...) transformation was the development of a conceptual capacity for categorizing learned behaviour in value terms - positive or negative, good or bad. We believe that some hominids developed this capacity for categorizing behaviour, and such an ability allowed them to approve or disapprove of their offsprings- learned behaviour. With such an ability, hominids were favoured, as they could transmit to their offspring all their behavioural experience about what can and cannot be done. This capacity triggered a culturaltransmission system similar to the human one, though pre-linguistic. We suggest that the adaptive advantage provided by this new system of social learning generated a selection pressure in favour of the development of a linguistic capacity allowing children to better understand the new kind of evaluative information received from parents. (shrink)
Information changes as it is passed from person to person, with this process of culturaltransmission allowing the minds of individuals to shape the information that they transmit. We present mathematical models of culturaltransmission which predict that the amount of information passed from person to person should affect the rate at which that information changes. We tested this prediction using a function-learning task, in which people learn a functional relationship between two variables by observing the (...) values of those variables. We varied the total number of observations and the number of those observations that take unique values. We found an effect of the number of observations, with functions transmitted using fewer observations changing form more quickly. We did not find an effect of the number of unique observations, suggesting that noise in perception or memory may have affected learning. (shrink)
Using samples from three diverse populations, we test evolutionary hypotheses regarding how people reason about the inheritance of various traits. First, we provide a framework for differentiat-ing the outputs of mechanisms that evolved for reasoning about variation within and between biological taxa and culturally evolved ethnic categories from a broader set of beliefs and categories that are the outputs of structured learning mechanisms. Second, we describe the results of a modified “switched-at-birth” vignette study that we administered among children and adults (...) in Puno, Yasawa, and adults in the United States. This protocol permits us to study perceptions of prenatal and social transmission pathways for various traits and to differentiate the latter into vertical versus horizontal cultural influence. These lines of evidence suggest that people use all three mechanisms to reason about the distribution of traits in the population. Participants at all three sites develop expectations that morphological traits are under prenatal influence, and that belief traits are more culturally influenced. On the other hand, each population holds culturally specific beliefs about the degree of social influence on non-morphological traits and about the degree of vertical transmission—with only participants in the United States expecting parents to have much social influence over their children. We reinterpret people's differentiation of trait transmission pathways in light of humans' evolutionary history as a cultural species. (shrink)
Humans have developed the capacity to approve or disapprove of the behavior of their children and of unrelated individuals. The ability to approve or disapprove transformed social learning into a system of cumulative cultural inheritance, because it increased the reliability of culturaltransmission. Moreover, people can transmit their behavioral experiences (regarding what can and cannot be done) to their offspring, thereby avoiding the costs of a laborious, and sometimes dangerous, evaluation of different cultural alternatives. Our thesis (...) is that, during ontogeny, the evaluative communication (approval/disapproval) between parents and offspring is substituted by other evaluative communications among peers, like individuals of the same generation. Each person belongs to a reference social group with individuals that interact more intensively. Humans have developed psychological mechanisms that enable culturaltransmission by being receptive to parental advice as well as their reference social group. The selective pressure that promoted these new evaluative interactions arose to facilitate the establishment of efficient cooperative relationships. In short, the social control of behavior is essential to understand human culturaltransmission. (shrink)
The articles in this theme issue seek to understand the evolutionary bases of social learning and the consequences of culturaltransmission for the evolution of human behaviour. In this introductory article, we provide a summary of these articles and a personal view of some promising lines of development suggested by the work summarized here.
Mathematical modeling can ground communication and reciprocal enrichment among fields of knowledge whose domains are very different. We propose a new mathematical model applicable in biology, specified into ecology and evolutionary biology, and in culturaltransmission studies, considered as a branch of economics. Main inspiration for the model are some biological concepts we call “eco-phenotypic” such as development, plasticity, reaction norm, phenotypic heritability, epigenetics, and niche construction. “Physiology” is a core concept we introduce and translate differently in the (...) biological and cultural domains. The model is ecological in that it aims at describing and studying organisms and populations that perform living, intended as a thermodynamic, matter-energy process concerning resources gathering, usage, and depletion in a spatiotemporal context with given characteristics, as well as with multiplication and space occupation. The model also supports evolution, intended as a dynamics including cumulative change in the features of unique organisms that are connected into breeding populations. The model is then applicable to the economics of culturaltransmission in which individuals form their attitudes and patterns of behavior under a complex system of influences derived from their “cultural parents”, other members of the society, and the environment. On the side of biology, an innovative goal is to integrate in a single model all the eco-phenotypic concepts as well as both evolution and ecology. On the side of culturaltransmission, eco-phenotypic modeling seems more appropriate in capturing some aspects of cultural systems which are modeled away in the earlier framework based on Mendelian population genetics. (shrink)
Atran's account of culturaltransmission can be further refined by considering constraints from early-developed, domain-specific intuitive ontological understanding. These suggest specific predictions about the cultural survival of “memes,” depending on the way they activate intuitive understanding. There is no general dynamic of cultural inheritance; only complex predictions for domain-specific competencies that cut across cultural domains.
The mechanisms for culturaltransmission remain disputable and difficult to validate through observational field studies alone. If controlled experimental laboratory investigation reveals that a putative mechanism is demonstrable in the species under study, then inferences that the same mechanism is operating in the field observation are strengthened.
We agree that language adapts to the brain, but we note that language also has to adapt to brain-external constraints, such as those arising from properties of the culturaltransmission medium. The hypothesis that Christiansen & Chater (C&C) raise in the target article not only has profound consequences for our understanding of language, but also for our understanding of the biological evolution of the language faculty.
This article examines the change which occurred in discussions of culturaltransmission between the Enlightenment and the liberal outlook of the nineteenth century. The former is exemplified mainly by eighteenth-century historical discussions, the latter by the thought of Alexis de Tocqueville. An interest in the influence of advanced Western cultures on seemingly inferior non-Western societies was consistent throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was manifested mainly in discussions of the barbarian conquest of the Roman Empire on the (...) one hand, and of European colonial policies on the other. The sources discussed here evinced a clear Eurocentric chauvinism, yet were inherently non-racial in nature. While many Enlightenment intellectuals retained a generally positive view of culturaltransmission, Tocqueville's post-revolutionary outlook was more pessimistic. (shrink)
As an exceptionally long-lived author (1588-1679) whose protracted development, late appearance in print, subsequent muzzling, and profound notoriety raise fascinating questions about how, when, and to what effect his thinking exerted an impact as he sought to transform an entire culture, Hobbes supplies the ideal focus for a study of culturaltransmission in early modern England. Ranging from Jonson to Rochester and including several critically neglected figures, select poetic contemporaries variously illuminate the scope of Hobbes’s writing and the (...) reach of his influence, in turn shedding diverse lights on the nature of their own work. (shrink)
Scribal copying is investigated as a test case for the memetic and epidemiological models for explaining the distribution of cultural items. We may hypothesize that the incidence of errors could be low enough to allow two conditions for neo-Darwinian explanation to be fulfilled: first, that there be a rather reliable mechanism for heredity, and second that occasional mutations might produce a version more likely to survive and be propagated than the exemplar. Scriptorial conventions are reviewed. Textual criticism is investigated. (...) Finally, some attention is given to the psychology of language perception and production. In conclusion, it is argued that the memetic model for culturaltransmission is not generally fecund while the epidemiological model is. (shrink)
Recent evidence suggests imitation is more developed in some cetaceans than the authors imply. Apart from apes, only dolphins have so far shown a grasp of what it is to imitate; moreover dolphins ape humans more clearly than do apes. Why have such abilities not been associated with the kind of progressive cultural complexity characteristic of humans?
Social learning and imitation is central to culture in cetaceans. The training technology used with cetaceans facilitates reinforcing imitation of one dolphin's behavior by another; the same technology, now widely used by pet owners, can lead to imitative learning in such unlikely species as dogs and horses. A capacity for imitation, and thus for cultural learning, may exist in many species.
The application of phylogenetic methods to cultural variation raises questions about how cultural adaption works and how it is coupled to culturaltransmission. Cultural group selection is of particular interest in this context because it depends on the same kinds of mechanisms that lead to tree-like patterns of cultural variation. Here, we review ideas about cultural group selection relevant to cultural phylogenetics. We discuss why group selection among multiple equilibria is not subject (...) to the usual criticisms directed at group selection, why multiple equilibria are a common phenomena, and why selection among multiple equilibria is not likely to be an important force in genetic evolution. We also discuss three forms of group competition and the processes that cause populations to shift from one equilibrium to another and create a mutation-like process at the group level. (shrink)
Archaeologists have proposed that behavioral knowledge of a tool can be conceptualized as a “recipe”—a unit of culturaltransmission that combines the preparation of raw materials, construction, and use of the tool, and contingency plans for repair and maintenance. This parallels theories in cognitive psychology that behavioral knowledge is hierarchically structured—sequences of actions are divided into higher level, partially independent subunits. Here we use an agent-based simulation model to explore the costs and benefits of hierarchical learning relative to (...) holistic learning, where entire behavioral sequences are learned in an all-or-nothing fashion, and diffusionist learning, where actions are completely independent. Hierarchical learning is favored under the reasonable assumptions that learning is associated with some degree of both error and cost, and that behavior can be grouped into subunits that repeat in one or more tool recipes. These general predictions can be tested in the archaeological and ethnographic record. Recent advances in evolutionary developmental biology have revealed a number of parallels between the hierarchically structured, recipe-like organization of behavioral knowledge that we examine here and the manner in which biological organisms develop. (shrink)
Laland et al.'s bidirectional model is a welcome starting point that can be enhanced by a full incorporation of systems thinking into its framework. Systems thinkers note that culture is not transmitted linearly in chunks but is co-constructed within subgroups. Niche construction, particularly among primates, should be studied primarily through the effects that social relationships have on selection pressures.
The evidence of high cognitive abilities in cetaceans does not stand up to close scrutiny under the standards established by laboratory researchers. This is likely to lead to a sterile debate between laboratory and field researchers unless fresh ways of taking the debate forward are found. A few suggestions as to how to do this are proposed.
Introducción: Camagüey ocupa el cuarto lugar nacional en cuanto al número de infectados con VIH/SIDA, después de La Habana, Santiago de Cuba y Holguín. Camagüey se encuentra dentro de los 45 municipios con mayor prevalencia en Cuba. Objetivo: identificar las actitudes socioculturales frente a las infecciones de transmisión sexual en estudiantes de primer año de Medicina. Método: en noviembre de 2011 se realizó un estudio analítico, de corte transversal, a una muestra de estudiantes de la Universidad de Ciencias Médicas "Carlos (...) J. Finlay". Se utilizó una encuesta para recoger información. Con el método no paramétrico de Kruskal Wallis se determinó el nivel de conocimiento de los mismos en cada uno de los componentes relacionados con las actitudes socioculturales. Se utilizó la técnica no paramétrica de ji cuadrado para evaluar si existían diferencias significativas entre los distintos grupos de edades, el sexo y el estado civil. Resultados: se valoró que el componente conductual se encuentra fortalecido, entre otras actitudes, por la tendencia de los estudiantes a mantener parejas estables. En el componente cognitivo sólo un 46 % supo reconocer las vías de transmisión del VIH/SIDA, y un 13,2 % no identificó las manifestaciones clínicas relacionadas con las infecciones de transmisión sexual. En el componente afectivo se destacó un 12 % de los encuestados como grupo de riesgo a los que no les gusta usar el preservativo. Conclusiones: como resultado de la encuesta se lograron identificar algunas actitudes socioculturales frente a las infecciones de transmisión sexual en estudiantes de Medicina de primer año, en los componentes valorados. Background: Camagüey has the fourth national place in the number of persons infected with VHI/AIDS, after Havana, Santiago and Holguín. Objetive: the aim of this work is identifying socio-cultural attitudes to face of the infections of sexual transmission in first year Medicine students. Methods: in November 2011, a group of students participated in a questionnaire. The non-parametric test Kruskal Wallis was made to find significant differences in the answers given by persons with different age, sex or civil status, Frequency of answers to each question was found out. The non parametric technique of Ji square was used to evaluate if there were significant differences among the different groups of ages, the sex and the civil status. Results: it was valued that the behavioral component is strengthened, among other attitudes, for the tendency of the students to maintain stable couples, only a 46 % know most of transmission ways of STD and a 13,2 % know the clinical symptoms, a 12 % said they did not like condom use. Conclusions: it was possible to find with this survey some socio-cultural attitudes to face of the infections of sexual transmission in first year Medicine students. (shrink)
We suggest that human culture exhibits key Darwinian evolutionary properties, and argue that the structure of a science of cultural evolution should share fundamental features with the structure of the science of biological evolution. This latter claim is tested by outlining the methods and approaches employed by the principal subdisciplines of evolutionary biology and assessing whether there is an existing or potential corresponding approach to the study of cultural evolution. Existing approaches within anthropology and archaeology demonstrate a good (...) match with the macroevolutionary methods of systematics, paleobiology, and biogeography, whereas mathematical models derived from population genetics have been successfully developed to study cultural microevolution. Much potential exists for experimental simulations and field studies of cultural microevolution, where there are opportunities to borrow further methods and hypotheses from biology. Potential also exists for the cultural equivalent of molecular genetics in “social cognitive neuroscience,” although many fundamental issues have yet to be resolved. It is argued that studying culture within a unifying evolutionary framework has the potential to integrate a number of separate disciplines within the social sciences. (Published Online November 9 2006) Key Words: cultural anthropology; cultural evolution; culturaltransmission; culture; evolution; evolutionary archaeology; evolutionary biology; gene-culture coevolution; memes; social learning. (shrink)
Devises a theoretical framework to think through the politics of transmission within feminism. It draws upon and develops the work of Bernard Stiegler to create a theoretical apparatus that can analyze the politics of transmission within digital culture.
This paper is a cross-cultural examination of the development of hunting skills and the implications for the debate on the role of learning in the evolution of human life history patterns. While life history theory has proven to be a powerful tool for understanding the evolution of the human life course, other schools, such as culturaltransmission and social learning theory, also provide theoretical insights. These disparate theories are reviewed, and alternative and exclusive predictions are identified. This (...) study of cross-cultural regularities in how children learn hunting skills, based on the ethnographic literature on traditional hunters, complements existing empirical work and highlights future areas for investigation. (shrink)
Cultural evolution studies are characterized by the notion that culture evolves accordingly to broadly Darwinian principles. Yet how far the analogy between cultural and genetic evolution should be pushed is open to debate. Here, we examine a recent disagreement that concerns the extent to which culturaltransmission should be considered a preservative mechanism allowing selection among different variants, or a transformative process in which individuals recreate variants each time they are transmitted. The latter is associated with (...) the notion of “cultural attraction”. This issue has generated much misunderstanding and confusion. We first clarify the respective positions, noting that there is in fact no substantive incompatibility between cultural attraction and standard cultural evolution approaches, beyond a difference in focus. Whether culturaltransmission should be considered a preservative or reconstructive process is ultimately an empirical question, and we examine how both preservative and reconstructive culturaltransmission has been studied in recent experimental research in cultural evolution. Finally, we discuss how the relative importance of preservative and reconstructive processes may depend on the granularity of analysis and the domain being studied. (shrink)
This book is part of a major project undertaken by the Centre for Studies in Civilizations , being one of a total of ninety-six planned volumes. The author is a statistician and computer scientist by training, who has concentrated on historical matters for the last ten years or so. The book has very ambitious aims, proposing an alternative philosophy of mathematics and a deviant history of the calculus. Throughout, there is an emphasis on the need to combine history and philosophy (...) of mathematics, especially in order to evaluate properly the history of mathematics in India, in particular the history of the calculus.The pivotal goals of the book are to oppose the Eurocentric account of the history of science in general and mathematics in particular; to avoid the usual philosophical idea of the centrality of proof for mathematical knowledge, in favour of the traditional Indian notion of pramāṇa [validation] encompassing empirical elements and emphasizing calculation; to analyze the thousand-year-long development of infinite series in India, starting in the fifth century; and to show ‘how and why the calculus was imported into Europe’ from about 1500. The result is a picture in which inputs from the Indian subcontinent and epistemology are the driving forces of the history of mathematics, as people in the European subcontinent struggle to adopt new calculation techniques from the East in spite of Western philosophico-religious biases . Thus, a ‘first math war’ involved the algorismus de numero indorum, adopted for practical reasons, which forced Europeans to modify their epistemology of number and quantities. A ‘second math war’ revolved around infinite series and the calculus, since the background of Western epistemology created ‘spurious difficulties’ about infinities and infinitesimals, partially resolved with theories of real numbers. And a ‘third math war’ is …. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to demonstrate that a very simple learning rule based on imitation can help to sustain altruism as a culturally transmitted pattern or behaviour among agents playing a standard prisoner’s dilemma game. The point of this demonstration is not to prove that imitation is single-handedly responsible for existing levels of altruism (a thesis that is false), nor is the point to show that imitation is an important factor in explanations for the evolution of altruism (a (...) thesis already prominent in the existing literature). The point is to show that imitation contributes to the evolution of altruism in a particular way that is not always fairly represented by evolutionary game theory models. Specifically, the paper uses a simple model to illustrate that culturaltransmission includes mechanisms that do not transmit phenotype vertically (i.e. from parent to related offspring) and that these mechanisms can promote altruism in the absence of any direct biological propensity favouring such behaviour. This is a noteworthy result because it shows that evolutionary models can be built to explicitly reflect the contribution of non-vertical transmission in our explanations for the evolution of altruism among humans and other social species. (shrink)