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Emergent Cultural Phenomena and their Cognitive Foundations

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  • Christian Cordes

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Abstract

To explain emergent cultural phenomena, this paper argues, it is inevitable to understand the evolution of complex human cognitive adaptations and their links to the population-level dynamics of cultural variation. On the one hand, the process of cultural transmission is influenced and constrained by humans’ evolved psychology; people tend to acquire some cultural variants rather than others. On the other hand, the cultural environment provides cultural variants that are transmitted to or adopted by individuals via processes of social learning. To gain insights into this recursive relationship between individual cognitive dispositions at the micro level and cultural phenomena at the macro level, the theory of gene-culture coevolution is applied. Moreover, a model of cultural evolution demonstrates the dissemination of novelty within a population via biased social learning processes. As a result, some unique facets of human behavior and cumulative cultural evolution are identified.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group in its series Papers on Economics and Evolution with number 2007-22.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2007-22

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Keywords: Cultural Evolution; Social Learning; Diffusion Dynamics; Coevolution; Evolutionary Economics Length 22 pages;

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  1. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
  2. Christian Cordes & Peter J. Richerson & Richard McElreath & Pontus Strimling, 2006. "A Naturalistic Approach to the Theory of the Firm: The Role of Cooperation and Cultural Evolution," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2006-06, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  3. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  4. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Joseph E. Harrington & Jr., 1999. "Rigidity of Social Systems," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 40-64, February.
  6. Eshel, Ilan & Samuelson, Larry & Shaked, Avner, 1998. "Altruists, Egoists, and Hooligans in a Local Interaction Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 157-79, March.
  7. Christian Cordes, 2004. "The Human Adaptation for Culture and its Behavioral Implications," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 143-163, May.
  8. Witt, Ulrich, 2001. " Between Appeasement and Belligerent Moralism: The Evolution of Moral Conduct in International Politics," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 106(3-4), pages 365-88, March.
  9. Rubin, Paul H., 1982. "Evolved ethics and efficient ethics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(2-3), pages 161-174.
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