I recently did some modelling work, in collaboration with Edwin van Leeuwen and others, exploring possible confounds in conformity research. As I discussed in a post some time ago, “conformity”, in cultural evolution, has a precise meaning as a disproportionate tendency to copy the majority. “Disproportionate” here means that the probability to copy a popular cultural trait should be higher than the frequency of the trait itself. In other words, if 60% of your friends wear read, and 40% wear blue, not only you should be more likely to also wear read (this would happen also by copying at random), but your probability to wear read should be higher than 60%. Why is this important? Conformity, in this technical sense, allows majority behaviours to be resistant to random fluctuations, or to changes in population, like migrations, etc. This, in turn, contributes to maintain stable cultural differences between groups.
I’ve just uploaded on SocArXiv a new preprint, A cultural evolution approach to digital media, where I suggest (surprise!) that cultural evolution provides some interesting tools to analyse digital media.
I just published, together with Claudio Tennie and Alex Mesoudi, a new paper in Royal Society Open Science: Social learning solves the problem of narrow-peaked search landscapes: experimental evidence in humans.
A paper I wrote together with Claudio Tennie has just been published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. The role of redundant information in cultural transmission and cultural stabilization presents an individual-based model of the following, quite straightforward, idea (which was, admittedly, Claudio’s idea).
Following the discussion in these two posts, and various conversations after a plenary talk of Pascal Boyer at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference last summer, I decided, together with Alex Mesoudi, to write a paper comparing some aspects of cultural attraction and “standard” cultural evolution. (This is, by the way, my current main research interest, and I hope to have more to say about it in the future).