Culture Evolves

7d3cf0465b50eaa48ffd2a9205455452?s=47 Tim Waring
December 13, 2017

Culture Evolves

A lecture on Cultural Evolution. How it evolves, how we know, and a little bit on why it matters, with reference to solving environmental challenges.


Tim Waring

December 13, 2017


  1. The Evolution of Culture Evolutionary Applications 2017 Tim Waring human

  2. other primates have adaptive culture, with regional variation, imitation, parental

    instruction A. Whiten, J. Goodall, W. C. McGrew, T. Nishida, V. Reynolds, Y. Sugiyama, C. E. G. Tutin, R. W. Wrangham and C. Boesch, Cultures in chimpanzees, Nature 399, 682-685(17 June 1999)
  3. Darwinian Evolution variation + selection + inheritance = adaptation

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  7. Cultural evolution is Darwinian. behavior beliefs institutions technology language

  8. No Surprise • Darwin (1859) - spoke of human behavioral

    change (esp. Descent) • Dawkins (1971) - The Selfish Gene - "meme" • EO Wilson (1975) - Sociobiology • Lumsden & Wilson (1981) - genes constrain culture • Cavalli-Sforza & Feldman (1981) - weak constraints • Boyd & Richerson (1985) - genes & culture coevolve • Mesoudi (2011) - Cultural Evolution (book) • Henrich (2016) - The Secret of Our Success (book)
  9. Genetic Evolution Cultural Evolution Variation random mutation guided innovation Transmission

    vertical parent -> offspring vertical, horizontal, oblique Selection environmental forcing strategic adoption of adaptive traits Cultural Evolution is Different Mesoudi, A., Whiten, A. & Laland, K.N., 2004. Perspective: is human cultural evolution Darwinian? Evidence reviewed from the perspective of the Origin of Species. Evolution, 58(1), pp.1–11.
  10. Cultural Evolution Faster Perreault, C. (2012) ‘The Pace of Cultural

    Evolution’, PLoS ONE, 7(9), p. e45150. More Group Structured Bell, A. V., Richerson, P. J. and McElreath, R. (2009) ‘Culture rather than genes provides greater scope for the evolution of large-scale human prosociality’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(42), p. 17671. Cumulative Dean, L. G. et al. (2014) ‘Human cumulative culture: a comparative perspective’. Biological Reviews, 89 (2) 284-301 Cultural Evolution is also... ...compared to genetic evolution.
  11. Cultural Microevolution Mesoudi (2009)

  12. Major Topics • cumulative cultural adaptation • imitation, learning, development

    (ontogeny) • cultural group selection • cooperation, group structure, institutions • cultural phylogenies • ethnic & social identity, diversification, ethnogenesis, quantitative history • gene-culture coevolution (dual inheritance) • e.g. adult lactose absorption
  13. Theory & Methods • Mathematical & computational models (differ from

    genetic models) • laboratory experiments, field experiments, cross-cultural comparisons, big digital data, historical data, twitter • FIELDS • Evolutionary psychology, biology, economics, linguistics, anthropology, history, humanities...
  14. Controversies • that culture evolves at all (vs evoked, attractors)

    • that cultural evolution can be adaptive • that it evolves in groups (cultural group selection)
  15. Cultural Macroevolution • cumulative culture • cultural phylogenies • cultural

    adaptation & adaptive radiations • long term complexity trends
  16. Reticulate phylogenies Borgerhoff Mulder, M., Nunn, C. & Towner, M.C.,

    2006. Cultural macroevolution and the transmission of traits. Evolutionary Anthropology, 15, pp.52–64.
  17. None
  18. Split graphs showing the results of NeighborNet analyses of the

    (a) functional and (b) the symbolic aspects of canoe design. For functional traits, the average delta score was 0.46 and the average Q-residual = 0.03. For symbolic traits, the average delta score was 0.37 and the average Q-residual = 0.05. Scale bar, 0.01. symbolic functional Gray, R.D., Bryant, D. & Greenhill, S.J., 2010. On the shape and fabric of human history. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 365(1559), pp.3923–3933. Canoe design aspects
  19. Going global: How humans conquered the world The New Scientist,

    2007 Mathew, S. and Perreault, C. (2015) Behavioural variation in 172 small-scale societies indicates that social learning is the main mode of human adaptation, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 282 (1810), p. 61.
  20. Inuit technology

  21. !kung technology

  22. fossil fuel technology

  23. anthropocene Waters et al., 2016. The Anthropocene is functionally and

    stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science 351. Crutzen, Paul J. "The “anthropocene”." Earth system science in the anthropocene. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2006. 13-18.
  24. • ultrasociality • group structure • masive scale • cooperation

    with non-relatives Culture and Cooperation -> Special role of groups Boyd, R. and Richerson, P. J. (2009) ‘Culture and the evolution of human cooperation’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1533), pp. 3281–3288.
  25. The special role of human groups -> cultural group selection

    Human biological adaptations for culture facilitate group structure and group functional cultural adaptations.
  26. Cultural Group Selection Henrich, J. (2004). Cultural group selection, coevolutionary

    processes and large-scale cooperation. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 53(1), 3–35. 1. Differential proliferation & extinction of groups 2. Differential success of groups 3. Selective imitation of between groups 4. Differential migration of individuals between groups
  27. favors selfish individuals cooperative non-cooperative (‘selfish’) Individual Selection in a

    social dilemma
  28. favors cooperative individuals within selfish groups cooperative non-cooperative (‘selfish’) Group

    Selection in a social dilemma
  29. multilevel selection individual selection group selection favors selfish individuals favors

    cooperative individuals within selfish groups outcomes depend on the balance of both effects cooperative non-cooperative (‘selfish’) Levels of Selection Conflict in social dilemmas
  30. 160% increase in clutch size Muir, W., 1996. Group selection

    for adaptation to multiple-hen cages: selection program and direct responses. Journal of Poultry Science 75, 447– 458. Posted to Flickr by USDAgov at Group Selection on Genes (very rare in nature)
  31. Cultural features that enhance group selection • conformity • social

    identity • ethnic marking • institutions (punishment, coercion, specialization, lock in) • cultural complexity
  32. Implications • In addition to self-interested adaptations, humans sport group-functional

    adaptations. • Thus, we come pre-loaded with adaptations for forming effective cooperative organizations (with unrelated others). • Group-competition accelerates cooperation. • Therefore, competition can enhance institutional evolution.
  33. Human cooperation is group-centric Apicella, Marlowe, Fowler & Christakis, (2012)

    Nature 481, 497–501. Group Selection on Genes
  34. Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs Group

    Selection on Culture
  35. The Battle of Agincourt. Choi, Bowles, 2007. The coevolution

    of parochial altruism and war. Science 318, 636–640. Group selection on both culture and genes
  36. Evolution favors group functional traits, when: • Group benefit is

    higher • Individual cost is lower • Fraction of variation between groups is higher (Rogers 1990)
  37. Price Equation The Price equation is a general statement about

    the statistical requirements for evolution (Frank 1995). expressed as where w is fitness, and z is the trait under selection across individuals i. The multi-level extension of the price equation for individuals i and groups g (McElreath & Boyd 2007). individual selection group selection
  38. Institutions evolve by multilevel selection • Henrich, J., 2004. Cultural

    group selection. Co-evolutionary process and large-scale cooperation. J. Econ. Behav. Organ. 53, 85–88. • Traulsen, A., Nowak, M.A., 2006. Evolution of cooperation by multilevel selection. PNAS 103, 10952–10955. • Van den Bergh, J., & Gowdy, J. M. (2009). A group selection perspective on economic behavior, institutions and organizations. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 72, 1-20.
  39. Prisoner’s Dilemma (cooperation) Stag Hunt (coordination)

  40. An example

  41. How does societal structure (laws, infrastructure, governance) evolve? individuals villages

  42. Genes vs. Culture Vining, D. R. (1986) ‘Social versus reproductive

    success: The central theoretical problem of human sociobiology’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9(1), pp. 167–187. Culture Genes
  43. ...