Replication and Emergence in Cultural Transmission

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Humans are fundamentally defined by our socially transmitted, often long-lived, sophisticated cultural traits. The nature of cultural transmission is the subject of ongoing debate: while some emphasize that it is a biased, transformational process, others point out that high-fidelity transmission is required to explain the quintessentially cumulative nature of human culture. This paper integrates both views into a model that has two main components: First, actions – observable motor-behavioural patterns – are inherited with high fidelity, or replicated, when they are copied, largely independently of their normal, effective or conventional function, by naive learners. Replicative action copying is the unbiased transmission process that ensures the continuity of cultural traditions. Second, mental culture – knowledge, skills, attitudes and values – is not inherited directly or faithfully, but instead emerges, or develops, during usage, when individuals learn the associations between actions and their contexts and outcomes. Mental cultural traits remain stable over generations to the extent that they are informed by similar (replicated) motor patterns unfolding in similar environments. The arguments in support of this model rest on clear distinctions between inheritance and usage; between public-behavioural and private-mental culture; and between selection for fidelity and selection for function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-71
Number of pages25
JournalPhysics of Life Reviews
Volume30
Early online date11 Apr 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Fingerprint

Copying
continuity

Keywords

  • Cultural evolution
  • Emergence
  • Imitation
  • Inferential learning
  • Replication
  • Selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Artificial Intelligence

Cite this

@article{16b73db952dc4ee3ad396ee262bd5c77,
title = "Replication and Emergence in Cultural Transmission",
abstract = "Humans are fundamentally defined by our socially transmitted, often long-lived, sophisticated cultural traits. The nature of cultural transmission is the subject of ongoing debate: while some emphasize that it is a biased, transformational process, others point out that high-fidelity transmission is required to explain the quintessentially cumulative nature of human culture. This paper integrates both views into a model that has two main components: First, actions – observable motor-behavioural patterns – are inherited with high fidelity, or replicated, when they are copied, largely independently of their normal, effective or conventional function, by naive learners. Replicative action copying is the unbiased transmission process that ensures the continuity of cultural traditions. Second, mental culture – knowledge, skills, attitudes and values – is not inherited directly or faithfully, but instead emerges, or develops, during usage, when individuals learn the associations between actions and their contexts and outcomes. Mental cultural traits remain stable over generations to the extent that they are informed by similar (replicated) motor patterns unfolding in similar environments. The arguments in support of this model rest on clear distinctions between inheritance and usage; between public-behavioural and private-mental culture; and between selection for fidelity and selection for function.",
keywords = "Cultural evolution, Emergence, Imitation, Inferential learning, Replication, Selection",
author = "Monica Tamariz",
year = "2019",
month = "10",
doi = "10.1016/j.plrev.2019.04.004",
language = "English",
volume = "30",
pages = "47--71",
journal = "Physics of Life Reviews",
issn = "1571-0645",
publisher = "Elsevier",

}

Replication and Emergence in Cultural Transmission. / Tamariz, Monica.

In: Physics of Life Reviews, Vol. 30, 10.2019, p. 47-71.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Replication and Emergence in Cultural Transmission

AU - Tamariz, Monica

PY - 2019/10

Y1 - 2019/10

N2 - Humans are fundamentally defined by our socially transmitted, often long-lived, sophisticated cultural traits. The nature of cultural transmission is the subject of ongoing debate: while some emphasize that it is a biased, transformational process, others point out that high-fidelity transmission is required to explain the quintessentially cumulative nature of human culture. This paper integrates both views into a model that has two main components: First, actions – observable motor-behavioural patterns – are inherited with high fidelity, or replicated, when they are copied, largely independently of their normal, effective or conventional function, by naive learners. Replicative action copying is the unbiased transmission process that ensures the continuity of cultural traditions. Second, mental culture – knowledge, skills, attitudes and values – is not inherited directly or faithfully, but instead emerges, or develops, during usage, when individuals learn the associations between actions and their contexts and outcomes. Mental cultural traits remain stable over generations to the extent that they are informed by similar (replicated) motor patterns unfolding in similar environments. The arguments in support of this model rest on clear distinctions between inheritance and usage; between public-behavioural and private-mental culture; and between selection for fidelity and selection for function.

AB - Humans are fundamentally defined by our socially transmitted, often long-lived, sophisticated cultural traits. The nature of cultural transmission is the subject of ongoing debate: while some emphasize that it is a biased, transformational process, others point out that high-fidelity transmission is required to explain the quintessentially cumulative nature of human culture. This paper integrates both views into a model that has two main components: First, actions – observable motor-behavioural patterns – are inherited with high fidelity, or replicated, when they are copied, largely independently of their normal, effective or conventional function, by naive learners. Replicative action copying is the unbiased transmission process that ensures the continuity of cultural traditions. Second, mental culture – knowledge, skills, attitudes and values – is not inherited directly or faithfully, but instead emerges, or develops, during usage, when individuals learn the associations between actions and their contexts and outcomes. Mental cultural traits remain stable over generations to the extent that they are informed by similar (replicated) motor patterns unfolding in similar environments. The arguments in support of this model rest on clear distinctions between inheritance and usage; between public-behavioural and private-mental culture; and between selection for fidelity and selection for function.

KW - Cultural evolution

KW - Emergence

KW - Imitation

KW - Inferential learning

KW - Replication

KW - Selection

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85064251409&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.plrev.2019.04.004

DO - 10.1016/j.plrev.2019.04.004

M3 - Article

C2 - 31005570

VL - 30

SP - 47

EP - 71

JO - Physics of Life Reviews

JF - Physics of Life Reviews

SN - 1571-0645

ER -