Cultural Evolution Across Domains: Language, Technology and Art

Monica Tamariz, Simon Kirby, Jon W. Carr

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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    The social and cognitive mechanisms of cultural evolution have been studied in detail for different domains: language, technology, the economy, art, etc. However, a model that incorporates the function of a cultural tradition and that is able to compare evolutionary dynamics across cultural domains has not been formulated. By exploring the dynamics of comparable linguistic, technological and artistic experimental tasks, we test the effect of domain-specific function on evolutionary mechanisms such as inheritance, innovation and selection. We find evidence that cultural domain shapes both the structure of the traditions and the way the cultural-evolutionary mechanisms operate. The simplifying effects of cultural transmission are noticeable in language and technology, but not in art; innovation is highest in art and lowest in language; and functional pressures lead to different morphological adaptations across domains. This speaks of a crucial role of function and domain in the evolution of culture.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
    EditorsA. Papafragou , D. Grodner , D. Mirman , J. Trueswell
    PublisherCognitive Science Society
    Number of pages6
    ISBN (Print)978-0-9911967-3-9
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016
    Event38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society - Philadelphia, United States
    Duration: 10 Aug 201613 Aug 2016


    Conference38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
    Abbreviated titleCogSci 2016
    Country/TerritoryUnited States


    • Cultural evolution
    • Language
    • Technology
    • Art
    • Lego


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