Cultural evolution in the digital age | Alberto Acerbi

Cultural evolution in the digital age


In my talk, I will explore how cultural evolution can provide a useful framework to understand the production, transmission, and selection of information in contemporary online, digital, media. I will touch topics such as how online media expanded the network where cultural transmission happens; how it changed the fidelity of transmission; and how this possibly impacts cumulative cultural evolution, i.e., the increasing complexity of cultural traits from one generation to another. I will discuss more in detail how the current widespread narrative about online misinformation is not consistent with a cultural evolutionary view of social influence, according to which humans are not overly gullible, but they can be better characterised as wary learners. The (limited) spread of online misinformation can be understood in this perspective by focusing on the idea that some cultural traits can be successful because their content taps into general cognitive biases. Misinformation, being less constrained by reality than true information, can be manufactured to appeal to these cognitive biases.

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
Alberto Acerbi

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