Old and Young Individuals’ Role in Cultural Change


We explore the impact of age on cultural change through simulations of cultural evolution. Our simulations show that common observations about the relationship between old and young naturally emerge from repeated cultural learning. In particular, young individuals are more open to learn than older individuals, they are less effective as cultural models, and they possess less cultural traits. We also show that, being more open to learning, young individuals are an important source of cultural change. Cultural change, however, is faster in populations with both young and old. A relatively large share of older individuals, in fact, allows a population to retain more culture, and a large culture can change in more directions than a small culture. For the same reason, considering age-biased cultural transmission in an overlapping generations model, cultural evolution is slower when individuals interact preferentially with models of similar age than when they mainly interact with older models.

Acerbi A., Ghirlanda S., Enquist M. (2012), Old and Young Individuals’ Role in Cultural Change, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulations, 15 (4)
Alberto Acerbi

Cultural Evolution / Cognitive Anthropology / Computational Social Science