Three predictions for cultural attraction theory

The next EHBEA conference in Paris will include a “satellite meeting” on cultural attraction theory: Cultural Evolution by Cultural Attraction: Empirical Issues

I will give a talk titled Three predictions for cultural attraction theory. Below the (tentative) slides. If you cannot wait, the three predictions are:

  1. lo-fi copying is more significant than hi-fi copying in cultural transmission
  2. domain-general social influence (context-biases) is not very important
  3. culture is a matter of global, often neutral, traditions, more than local, generally adaptive, differences

As I will explain, cultural attraction theory does not depend on these predictions being true but, if they are, cultural attraction is particularly appealing. If they are false, conversely, the explanative power of cultural attraction may be quite low. I just gave the talk to a group of philosophers that got rightly frustrated by my use of the term “prediction”. Given the alternatives (assumptions, prognostications, presuppositions, commitments, pillars) I might anyway stick with it for the time being.

I am not sure if I will be repeating the obvious or if I will (unwillingly) upset cultural attraction people, so perhaps the talk may not be too pointless.

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2 thoughts on “Three predictions for cultural attraction theory

  1. Contentious theses, Alberto! Unsurprisingly, I have a million questions already. Here’s hoping we can chew some of them over in a week’s time : )

    I’m not one of those philosophers who will get mad at you for calling those hypotheses ‘predictions’, but I am suspicious of the relatively unconstrained way in which you use ‘significant’ and ‘important’ — i.e. significant as opposed to what? -important for what time-frame? -for which phenomena?

    Of course, I should point out that even if your theses turn out to be true, this doesn’t entail that cultural attract(ion/or) theory is explanatorily powerful. CAT might well paint an accurate picture of the world, but not have the requisite empirical tools to explain or predict phenomena.

    1. Hi Andrew, thank you for your comment!

      I agree with you that I am using quite loosely those terms in my slides and, in fact, I do not feel I can provide a more precise characterisation at the moment. The goal would be to draw the attention to those questions, and, as a consequence, find a better way to characterise them. Of course I’d consider it a success if someone else, stimulated by the talk, would do it! 🙂

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