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The Cultural Evolution Society's Online Learning Series

Foundations of Cultural Evolution

Lecture 1: Why learn from others?

Seagulls image.

A graphical approach to frequency-dependent fitness

Individuals appear to make decisions that depend on what others are doing. Seagulls appear to follow other seagulls, small mammals may follow and congregate with others, and we ourselves often divert our attention to investigate what other humans are doing. While there are multiple reasons for why individuals congregate, for a forager an important choice would be whether or not to join the discoveries made by other group members. Why pay attention to others?

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References cited

Barnard, C. J. & Sibley, R. M. 1981 Producers and scroungers: a general model and its application to captive flocks of house sparrows. Anim. Behav. 29, 543–550.

Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (1995). Why Does Culture Increase Human Adaptability? Ethology and Sociobiology, 16(2), 125-143.

Rogers, A. R. (1988). Does Biology Constrain Culture? American Anthropologist, 90(4), 819-831

Additional readings about social learning and Roger's Paradox

Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (1996). Why culture is common, but cultural evolution is rare. In W. Runciman, J. Maynard Smith, & R. Dunbar (Eds.), Evolution of social behaviour patterns in primates and man (Vol. 88, pp. 77-93). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Enquist, M., Eriksson, K., & Ghirlanda, S. (2007). Critial Social Learning: A Solution to Roger's Paradox of Nonadaptive Culture. American Anthropologist, 109(4), 727-734.

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