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The Cultural Evolution Society's Online Learning Series

Foundations of Cultural Evolution

Lecture 6: What is learned from others?

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Introducing data into your evolutionary model

I don't typically remember much from the many years of formal schooling that academics go through. I do remember the time my Zoology professor imitated the mating dance of a crab, when I successfully explained the Lokta-Volterra equations to a less-eager audience, and digging experimental aquatic enclosures in the mud with a research team. For some reason some details about life remain while others fade, determining the content of what we remember and pass down to others. Because the modifications influence the cultural beliefs, knowledge, and behavior a population expresses, understanding this content bias may matter not just for understanding cultural variation, but also adaptive behaviors.

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References cited

Mesoudi, A., Whiten, A., & Dunbar, R. (2006). A bias for social information in human cultural transmission. British Journal of Psychology, 97(3), 405–423.

Some readings about content biases

Acerbi, A., & Bentley, R. A. (2014). Biases in cultural transmission shape the turnover of popular traits. Evolution and Human Behavior, 35(3), 228-236.

Acerbi, A., Kendal, J., & Tehrani, J. J. (2017). Cultural complexity and demography: The case of folktales. Evolution and human behavior, 38(4), 474-480.

Mesoudi, A., & Whiten, A. (2008). The multiple roles of cultural transmission experiments in understanding human cultural evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1509), 3489-3501.

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