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Chapter 3

Chapter 3 Cultural Evolution.docx

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PSYC 3350
Francois Lalonde

Ch.3 Cultural psyc 1 Chapter 3 Cultural Evolution  Manners differ across cultures because people are socialized to different sets of norms and customs o one reason why manners have changed over time is because people's views of what is healthy have also changed (ex. 16 century it was viewed unhealthy to refrain from either spitting or passing wind) Where does cultural variation come from? Ecological and Geographical Variation  different physical ecologicals can affect lifestyles: ex. values, diet, behaviours  in general, survey of masculinity led anthropologist to conclude that the harsher the environment and the scarcer the resources, the more manhood is stressed as the goal  different physical environment can shape the lifestyles possible  Small differences can have large effects:  ex. Incans(largest and most advanced state in theAmericas at the time) was defeated by a small band of soldiers o Proximal causes: those that have direct and immediate relations with their effects. -- Proximal advantages led to the defeat of the Incans: ex. Spaniards had experience from thousands of years of written history, more advanced weapons, and ships which allowed them to reach theAmericas o Distal causes: initial differences that lead to effects over long periods, and often through indirect relations. Ex. Subtle differences in the geography of Eurasia andAmericas important in how the Spanish defeated the Incas. Birth of agriculture enabled formerly nomadic people to adopt sedentary lifestyles that allowed them to benefit from creating tools  Transmitted Versus Evoked Culture: o Two ways geography can affect cultural norms: 1) 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. Ex. The capacity to act intimidating is universally present; however, it is evoked among some people only when they find themselves or their loved ones under threat 2) transmitted culture: people come to learn about particular cultural practices through social learning or by modeling others who live near them  can travel with people when they move to new environments; people can bring their transmitted ideas with them and cultures can spread past their initial set of geographical conditions o distinction between evoked and transmitted culture not always clear o limits of ecological variations on culture seen in a study by Edgerton: contrasted culture against ecology  He studied four EastAfrican tribes that each had multiple communities living in different ecological settings; if people's attitudes are a product of ecology, then the communities that farmed should show attitudes that are similar, and different from communities which herded. If people's attitudes were a product of transmitted culture, then the different communities within each tribe should show attitudes that are quite similar to each other and different from attitudes of other tribes, regardless whether they lived in farming regions or in herding Ch.3 Cultural psyc 2  He found that tribal affiliation was a better predictor of people's attitudes than whether they farmed or herded. This shows that although ecology influences cultural variation, it is still transmitted in ways independent of ecology o transmitted culture tends to be more important than evoked culture How do ideas catch on?  Rumors are fueled by a lack of information, creating an environment in which facts become extremely valuable and their spread is fanned by strong emotional feelings  Cultures change when new ideas become widely shared among their populations  Two models for how cultural ideas spread: 1) considers that the spread of ideas through populations is similar to the way genes replicate (memes) 2) suggests that the spread of ideas is similar to the way diseases spread(epidemiology of ideas) Parallels between Biological and Cultural Evolution  Biological and Cultural evolution are not identical in these aspects: o genes can only be passed vertically from parents to offspring, and evolution of genes is slow and gradual o a cultural idea can pass horizontally from one person to anyone else, and can occur at rapid speeds  Two models to how ideas spread: 1) Ideas as Replicators o Genes are replicators in biological evolution. Need these characteristics to be successful:  longevity (should be stable and long-lasting)  high fidelity (accurately reproduced)  fecundity o cultural evolution also involves replicators that possess longevity, fidelity, and fecundity o MEMES is the cultural equivalent to genes o Memes are the smallest units of cultural information that can be faithfully transmitted. (ex. Tunes, catchphrases, iPods, scientific theories) o Memes are instructions for particular ways of behaving or speaking, which are stored in our brains or in written texts, or in objects and are replicated through communication or imitation o Contrast between genes and memes: random mutations in genes are the source of genetic variability, but cultural evolution grows from innovations that are typically not random errors that are planned o Cultural transmission sometimes does not have very high fidelity (accurate reproduction). Ex: the game of telephone. o analogy of memes that are like genes is weakened if we can't specify what aspects of messages constitute as memes o memes do not always have to be adaptive (result in surviving offspring); could be maladaptive ex. Cannibalism 2) Epidemiology of Ideas. o The epidemiology view considers the distribution of ideas in a particular population and explores the features of ideas that facilitate or inhibit the Ch.3 Cultural psyc 3 likelihood that an idea will be passed on o in contrast to efforts to understand cultural evolution through replicators like memes, epidemiological view argues that there is no direct replication of ideas o For an idea to spread, the epidemiological view proposes the following steps: a) an individual(the inventor) has a mental representation of an idea in her mind b) another individual (the imitator) who learns about this idea from the first person, then creates a mental representation of the idea in his own head c) And so on. o The idea does not transmit directly from inventor to imitator; the mental representation of the imitator is different because it is constrained by the imitator's own idiosyncratic ways of thinking (biases) o However, since people tend to share the same biases, people's imitating tends to be accurate o According to this view cultural evolution is different from biological evolution Factors that cause ideas to spread A. Communicable ideas that spread o most direct way to spread ideas is through language o some ideas more likely to be communicated more than others o stereotypes reflect shared ideas that people have in particular cultural contexts about some specific cultural groups  content of stereotypes influenced by ideas that people were most likely to communicate  Dynamic social impact theory: individuals come to influence each other, and they do so primarily in terms of how often the individuals interact, which ultimately leads to culture o is one ac
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