Replication and Reconstruction. A quick note on Scott-Phillips 2017

An interesting article from Thom Scott-Phillips has been recently published in the Journal of Cognition and Culture: A (Simple) Experimental Demonstration that Cultural Evolution is not Replicative but Reconstructive – and an Explanations of Why this Difference Matters.

The article describes an experiment that nicely illustrates (“make flesh” in the words of Scott-Phillips) a thought experiment proposed by Dan Sperber. Shortly, imagine a Chinese whispers game, in which chains of individuals have to reproduce two drawings. One is a familiar configuration (in the specific case, the first three letters of the latin alphabet), while the other one is a meaningless scribble (see the image below, from Scott-Phillips’ paper).

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Possible confounds in conformity research – II

[The first part is here]

In a successive series of models, published in Scientific Reports, we considered whether other individual-level mechanisms could potentially be mistaken for conformity, generating relations between frequency of a trait and probability to copy it that looked like sigmoids. We choose a few simple and plausible mechanisms (you can refer to the paper for details) and we found that two of them – on a total of seven tested, plus three controls – generated relations for which a sigmoid function produced a better fit than a linear one (see figure below). The codes for running all simulations (written in Matlab) are available through the Open Science Framework.

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New preprint “A cultural evolution approach to digital media”

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.

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Did technology disrupt the truth? Probably not

One of the articles of my holiday-accumulated reading list was, given my current interest in the effects of digital media on cultural transmission and evolution (see here), Katherine Viner’s How technology disrupted the truth, a long read of the Guardian. The piece got extensive – and almost exclusively positive – attention (there are, when I write, 1,589 comments and around 64,000 shares). In fact, I found it quite hideous, and I believe it also embodies a widespread common-sense attitude towards digital technologies, and social media in particular, so I decided to write here some comments.

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Echo chambers

[I am starting to gather more systematically thoughts and materials about the topic “Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age”, including a twitter hashtag #CulturalEvolutionInTheDigitalAge where I plan to collect some recent – and less recent – papers, articles, discussions, etc. I hope to write at some point a more thorough introduction to this project. For now, here some extemporaneous reflections on the echo chambers phenomenon]

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