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II. Evolutionary Foundations of Cultural Psychology
a. Biological vs. Cultural Evolution
i. Replication of Genes versus Replication of Ideas
Replication of Genes
oNatural Selection- evolutionary process that occurs when the
three conditions are present:
There is individual variability among members of a
species on certain traits
Those traits are associated with different survival rates
Those traits have a hereditary bases
oSexual Selection- the traits that make you more advantageous in
surviving and replicating your genes, basically the traits that
make you more attractive in finding a mate
Individual who can best attract the healthiest mate will
most likely to have surviving off springs
ii. Replication of ideas- Factors that cause ideas to spread
1. Communicable ideas – some ideas more likely to be spread than
others- culturally shared stereotypes tend to be formed based on the
kinds of traits that people are most likely to communicate and for the
kinds of groups that people are most likely t be talking about
a. Dynamic Social Impact Theory- individuals come to
influence each other and this is done based on how often individuals
interact, which basically leads to like minded people that are separated
by geography- cultures in other words.
2. Emotional ideas- contemporary legends- fictional stories that are
told in modern societies as though they are true.
oThey have informational value- spread of rumors/legends can be
due to ppls desire for knowledge even if the info they might be
receiving is not always accurate- highly adaptive for ppl to
communicate potentially useful information to each other
oMore likely to spread if they evoke a shared emotional reaction
among ppl who are motivated to share emotions because it
allows them to connect with each other- so rumors/legends that
spark strong feelings should facilitate a shared connection with
3. Minimally Counterintuitive ideas- statements that are surprising
and unusual in the sense that they violate our expectations but are not
too outlandish
b. Changing Cultures vs. Sustained Cultures
i. Increasing Interconnectedness- between cultures allows ideas that emerge
in one culture to have an influence on people in other cultures, thereby
hastening the process of cultural evolution
- resulting in formation of global culture but at the same time not
because there is an increase in tribalism to preserve past cultural
ii. Increasing Individualism
iii. Increasing Intelligence
iv. Pluralistic Ignorance- tendency for people to collectively misinterpret the
thoughts that underlie other peoples behaviour.
In many situations, peoples bhvrs and statements are not accurate
reflections of their private thoughts because people wish to maintain a
positive impressions and make statements that are socially desirable
This relevant to cultural persistence because ppl are influenced by
what they believe people feel rather than by what others actually feel
and due to this a practice can come to persist even when the majority
of the ppl privately do not endorse that practice themselves
c. Ecological Adaptedness
i. Ecological and Geographical Variation
1. Proximal Causes vs. Distal Causes
oProximal causes are those that have direct and immediate
relations with their effects while distal causes are those that
lead to initial differences that lead to effects over long periods
of time and often through indirect relations
2. Transmitted vs. Evoked Culture
oThe first way that different geographies can effect cultural
norms is through evoked culture which is the notion that all
people, regardless of where they are from, have certain
biologically encoded behavioural repertories that are potentially
accessible to them and those repertories are engaged when the
appropriate situational conditions are present
Ex. Intimidation, present in all cultures but is usually
evoked when a loved one is in danger
Example of an evoked cultural difference can be seen in
cross-cultural variation in the importance of physical
attractiveness when choosing a mate. If hold everything
constant, people tend to choose ppl that are more
physically attractive because it means they are healthy
and not infected with parasites (shows through blemishes,
etc) So in cultures where there arent a lot of parasites,
physical attractiveness isnt the only determinant when
choosing mates, stuff like kindness, intelligence, charm,
etc matter. In contrast, in cultures where there is a lot of
parasites and infection, people value physical
attractiveness a lot more
So evoked culture is thus tied to particular geographic
environments: when one moves to a new environment,
new bhvrl responses should be evoked
oTransmitted Culture is when people come to learn about
cultural practices through social learning or by modelling others
who live near them.
oDistinction between evoked/transmitted can become blurred
sometimes because sometimes a particular bhvrl script might be
activated by a specific situational variable but if that bhvrl
script becomes the norm than it might learned by others and
transmitted to future generations. It can keep getting
transmitted even if the original situational variable isnt present
any longer. So basically transmitted culture is always involved
in maintaining cultural norms even when the evoked cultural
response is also present
ii. Hunter-Gatherer Adaptedness
Groups were usually small
They were usually nomadic
Daily life involved physical challenge
Disease produced high rates of mortality
Most activities occurred in highly social contexts
Privacy was limited
Conflicts dealt with thru extensive group discussions
iii. Domestication of Plants and Animals
iv. Aspects of Ecology
• Resource Availability or Abundance
• Resource Mobility
• Cultural Isolation
• Activity Interdependence
• Dangerous Activities
• Population Density
• Simple-Complex Societies