cultural evolution

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 …

Review of Tim Lewens, Cultural Evolution: Conceptual Challenges

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 …

Social learning solves the problem of narrow-peaked search landscapes: experimental evidence in humans

The extensive use of social learning is considered a major reason for the ecological success of humans. Theoretical considerations, models and experiments have explored the evolutionary basis of social learning, showing the conditions under which …

The role of redundant information in cultural transmission and cultural stabilization

Redundant copying has been proposed as a manner to achieve the high-fidelity necessary to pass on and preserve complex traits in human cultural transmission. There are at least 2 ways to define redundant copying. One refers to the possibility of …

If we are all cultural Darwinians what’s the fuss about? Clarifying recent disagreements in the field of cultural evolution

Cultural evolution studies are characterized by the notion that culture evolves accordingly to broadly Darwinian principles. Yet how far the analogy be- tween cultural and genetic evolution should be pushed is open to debate. Here, we examine a …