Chapter 3 (2): cultural evolution continued
Where Does Cultural Variation Come From (Cont’)?
Evoked Culture vs. Transmitted Culture
Evoked Culture: All people, regardless of where they are from, have biologically encoded
behavioural repertoire that are potentially accessible to them, and these repertoires are engaged when
the appropriate situational conditions are present (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992). An Example of Evoked
Culture is People’s sense of physical attractiveness (symmetrical faces, blemish free skins, less
anomaly faces) is highly dependent on the environment but the attractiveness based on physical
characteristics is encoded based on biological encoded behaviour. Because such indicators tell you
that how much the person is physically healthy = it increases the chance to have healthy offspring. 1)
Bad environment you need a very healthy mate so that you have a very healthy mate to be able to
have good kids. And in less parasites▯less importance on physical attractiveness.
Transmitted Culture: People come to learn about particular cultural practices through social
learning or by modeling others who live near them (Richerson & Boyd, 2005). Main points: We do
not care about innateness but rather process of how the information actually spreads? The
transmission process occurs from caregivers to babies, from teachers to students, from the masters to
their disciples (prof example). Transmitted culture can travel with people even if the environment of
the new places different from that of the initial set of geographic conditions (like me).
How Do Ideas Catch On?
• Biological Evolution occurs mainly through things like Natural Selection, Sexual Selection.
On the other hand
• Cultural Evolution
– Longevity (information in genes remain in long time in cultures views the ideas that
are replicated and improved upon through communication and imitations. Idea that
only remain in your head for few seconds is not going to be passed on)
– Fidelity (no gene errors and in culture view things that are fecund or go viral tend to
be copied in exact same way without any changes.
– Fecundity (# of offspring and in culture view: things that are popular and go viral and
Process of cultural evolutions:
Meme(s)A smallest units of cultural Information that can be faithfully transmitted to others and the
next generations. Like genes, the longevity, fidelity, and fecundity are high (as explained above).
However, unlike genes, memes do not have (1) any tangible entities ( genes are identified but memes
have not been yet) (2) Random copying errors (mutations), (3) do not have to be adaptive things that
are bad like cannibalism▯diseases causes▯but still passed on.
Main point: Acording to this of meme by dawkins, the same idea should be transferrad from one
generation to the next generation in exactly the same way.
How Do Ideas Catch On? (Dan Sperber)
Epidemiology of ideas: (1) an individual who comes up with an idea (AKA an inventor) has a
mental representation of this idea in his/her mind.> (2) another individual (AKA an imitator) learns
about this idea from the inventor. But, it is not a simple give and take relationship. The imitator needs
to imitate it and recreate it using his own brain (hens it is not the same idea).
How it works: Dad communicate with many people in one generation so get comes up with idea 1.
his idea spread to the society including his friends and his child ( prof). Bbecause of this the prof
comes up with an idea 1 which is somewhat different from the dad but the prof came up with it by
himself. ( note that the idea or the representation of this idea will be slightly different as this idea was
came out by different people. The boundaries do not overlap. This idea is better as it it nicely depict
the culture transmission of information. Chapter 3 (2): cultural evolution continued
Factor That Causes Ideas to Spread
The messenger game: In China, 1084 elder people attended the message game. The first message “the
red pepper is afraid of Szechuan people” ended up transmitted to “The red pepper is good for your
health” . There are many copying errors. The word health appear at the end. This says that amond the
elder’s health is very important thus we are able to tell the concerns of the general population in this
case health is important.
Communicable Ideas Spread
Ideas usually need to be communicated in order to spread. They spread within social networks, so
some ideas vary across groups.
Dynamic Social Impact Theory: Study by Cullum and Harton, 2007
Explored how students’ attitudes changed while living in residence halls. The students were randomly
assigned to the different halls, so their living arrangements made for a nice natural experiment.
The students completed surveys that assessed their attitudes on a variety of issues after spending 2
weeks and 13 weeks in the residences.
They also indicated how important each attitude was. They assessed how much more student’s