Individual-based models of cultural evolution. A step-by-step guide using R


The field of cultural evolution has emerged in the last few decades as a thriving, interdisciplinary effort to understand cultural change and cultural diversity within an evolutionary framework and using evolutionary tools, concepts and methods. Given its roots in evolutionary biology, much of cultural evolution is grounded in, or inspired by, formal models. Yet many researchers interested in cultural evolution come from backgrounds that lack training in formal models, such as psychology, anthropology or archaeology. The aim of this book is to partly address this gap by showing readers how to create individual-based models (IBMs, also known as agent-based models, or ABMs) of cultural evolution. We provide example code written in the programming language R, which has been widely adopted in the scientific community. We will go from very simple models of the basic processes of cultural evolution, such as biased transmission and cultural mutation, to more advanced topics such as the evolution of social learning, demographic effects, and social network analysis. Where possible we recreate existing models in the literature, so that readers can better understand those existing models, and perhaps even extend them to address questions of their own interest. Please notice this is a ‘living’ book. It will be updated over time.

Acerbi, A., Mesoudi A., Smolla, M. (2020), Individual-based models of cultural evolution. A step-by-step guide using R, doi:110.31219/
Alberto Acerbi

Cultural Evolution / Cognitive Anthropology / Individual-based modelling / Computational Social Science / Digital Media