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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Cordes, 2007. "Emergent Cultural Phenomena and their Cognitive Foundations," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2007-22, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  • Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2007-22
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
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    5. 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.
    6. Rubin, Paul H., 1982. "Evolved ethics and efficient ethics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(2-3), pages 161-174.
    7. Christian Cordes, 2004. "Veblen's "Instinct of Workmanship," its Cognitive Foundations, and Some Implications for Economic Theory," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2004-01, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    8. Joseph E. Harrington & Jr., 1999. "Rigidity of Social Systems," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 40-64, February.
    9. Christian Cordes, 2006. "Darwinism in economics: from analogy to continuity," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 529-541, December.
    10. 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 157-179, March.
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    12. Witt, Ulrich, 2001. "Between Appeasement and Belligerent Moralism: The Evolution of Moral Conduct in International Politics," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 106(3-4), pages 365-388, March.
    13. Cordes, Christian & Richerson, Peter J. & McElreath, Richard & Strimling, Pontus, 2008. "A naturalistic approach to the theory of the firm: The role of cooperation and cultural evolution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 125-139, October.
    14. Christian Cordes, 2004. "The Human Adaptation for Culture and its Behavioral Implications," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 143-163, May.
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    Keywords

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

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