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Why Do People Become Modern? A Darwinian Explanation


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  • Lesley Newson
  • Peter J. Richerson
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    A procession of cultural changes, often referred to as "modernization," is initiated as a society undergoes economic development. But cultural change continues to be rapid in societies that industrialized several generations ago. Much of the change in both developed and developing societies is a progressive abandonment of the norms, values, and beliefs that encourage behavior consistent with the pursuit of genetic fitness. The kin influence hypothesis suggests that these changes are part of a cultural evolutionary process initiated by the replacement of largely kin-based communities with social groups consisting largely of non-kin. Kin have an interest in encouraging one another to behave in ways consistent with the pursuit of reproductive success, and a high level of social exchange between kin will tend to maintain norms that prescribe such behaviors. When social exchange between kin is reduced, these norms begin to relax. Cross-national comparisons of measures that reflect attitudes and behavior support the hypothesis by showing that cultural differences between countries can be substantially explained by their position on a cultural continuum that begins with social networks widening so that they become less kin-based. Copyright (c) 2009 The Population Council, Inc..

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by The Population Council, Inc. in its journal Population and Development Review.

    Volume (Year): 35 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 117-158

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:35:y:2009:i:1:p:117-158

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    Cited by:
    1. Gillian Brown & Peter Richerson, 2014. "Applying evolutionary theory to human behaviour: past differences and current debates," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 105-128, July.


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