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Why people die in novels: Testing the ordeal simulation hypothesis

What is fiction about, and what is it good for? An influential family of theories sees fiction as rooted in adaptive simulation mechanisms. In this view, our propensity to create and enjoy narrative fictions was selected and maintained due to the …

Cognitive attraction and online misinformation

The spread of online misinformation has gained mainstream attention in recent years. This paper approaches this phenomenon from a cultural evolution and cognitive anthropology perspective, focusing on the idea that some cultural traits can be …

Copy-the-majority of instances or individuals? Two approaches to the majority and their consequences for conformist decision-making

Cultural evolution is the product of the psychological mechanisms that underlie individual decision making. One commonly studied learning mechanism is a disproportionate preference for majority opinions, known as conformist transmission. While most …

Did Einstein really say that? Testing content versus context in the cultural selection of quotations

We experimentally investigated the influence of context-based biases, such as prestige and popularity, on the preferences for quotations. Participants were presented with random quotes associated to famous or unknown authors (experiment one), or with …

Role of Neutral evolution in word turnover during centuries of English word popularity

Here, we test Neutral models against the evolution of English word frequency and vocabulary at the corpus scale, as recorded in annual word frequencies from three centuries of English lan- guage books. Against these data, we test both static and …

Cultural complexity and demography: the case of folktales

We investigate the relationship between cultural complexity and population size in a non-technological cultural domain for which we have suitable quantitative records: folktales. We define three levels of complexity for folk narratives: the …

Birth of the cool: a two-centuries decline in emotional expression in Anglophone fiction

The presence of emotional words and content in stories has been shown to enhance a story’s memorability, and its cultural success. Yet, recent cultural trends run in the opposite direction. Using the Google Books corpus, coupled with two …

A cultural evolution approach to digital media

Digital media have today an enormous diffusion, and their influence on the behavior of a vast part of the human population can hardly be underestimated. In this review I propose that cultural evolution theory, including both a sophisticated view of …

A reappreciation of “conformity”

Conformity cannot be identified based on population-level signatures

Conformist transmission, defined as a disproportionate likelihood to copy the majority, is considered a potent mechanism underlying the emergence and stabilization of cultural diversity. However, ambiguity within and across disciplines remains as to …