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Chapter 3

PSYC14H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Cultural Evolution, Evolution, Natural Selection

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Sisi Tran

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Chapter 3: Cultural Evolution
Cultures are not monolithic and frozen entities but rather are fluid and constantly evolving as
new ideas emerge and conditions change
- This chapter explores where this cultural variation comes from and how cultures change
and persist over time
Ecological differences: different environments affect the way that people go about everyday
life. There are some ways in which physical environments affect culture quite directly
- Different physical ecologies do not just affect the diets of people but also the different
foraging behaviours affect societal structure and the values that people come to adopt
o E.g. hunting traditions in environments where animals are present
o Cultural variation in gender roles can arise from the different ecologies within
which people live
In cultures where the environment is harsh and requires courage and
physical prowess to secure a living may value strength and toughness of
males and, therefore, they are more likely to emerge
- Proximal causes: those that have direct and immediate relation with their effects
- Distal causes: initial differences that lead to effects over long periods, often through
indirect relations
Cultural norms can arise as direct responses to features of the ecology or they can arise
because of learning from other individuals
- Evoked culture: notion that all people, regardless of where they are from, have certain
biologically encoded behavioural repertoires that are potentially accessible to them, and
these repertoires are engaged when the appropriate situational conditions are present
o Evoked culture is tied to particular geographical environments: when one moves
to a new environment, new behavioural responses should be evoked
- Transmitted culture: people come to learn about particular cultural practices through
social learning or by modeling others who live near them
o Unlike evoked culture, transmitted culture can travel with people when they
move to new environments
o Transmitted culture is always involved in maintaining cultural norms, even when
evoked cultural responses are also present
- Understanding cultural variation requires us to look at both the evoked culture that
originates in the surrounding geography and the transmitted culture that spreads the
norms that develop
Cultures change when new ideas become widely shared among their populations
- Natural selection occurs when the following three conditions are present:
o Individual variability exists among members of a species on certain traits
o Those traits are associated with different reproductive rates
o Those traits have a hereditary basis
- Biological evolution and cultural evolution are not identical processes
o Difference 1: in biological evolution, genes are copied very faithfully from one
generation to the next, with copying errors (mutations) being very rare and
emerging randomly, by chance
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