cultural evolution

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 …

Cultural stability without copying

What causes cultural stability? Culture can be studied as an evolving system, and the comparison between biological and cultural evolution has inspired a productive research agenda in which cultural stability is commonly attributed to the existence …

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 …

Cultural evolution of emotional expression in 50 years of song lyrics

The cultural dynamics of music has recently become a popular avenue of research in the field of cultural evolution, reflecting a growing interest in art and popular culture more generally. Just as biologists seek to explain population-level trends in …

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 …

Reply to ‘Sigmoidal Acquisition Curves are Good Indicators of Conformist Transmission’

In the Smaldino et al. study ‘Sigmoidal Acquisition Curves are Good Indicators of Conformist Transmission’, our original findings regarding the conditional validity of using population-level sigmoidal acquisition curves as means to evidence …

Folk-economic beliefs as “evidential fiction”: Putting the economic public discourse back on track

Folk-economic beliefs may be regarded as “evidential fictions” that exploit the natural tendency of human cognition to organize itself in narrative form. Narrative counter-arguments are likely more effective than logical debunking. The challenge is …

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 …