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Critical points in current theory of conformist social learning
Mälardalen University, Department of Mathematics and Physics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7164-0924
Stockholm University.
Stockholm University.
2007 (English)In: Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, ISSN 0737-4828, Vol. 5, no 1, p. 67-87Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Existing mathematical models suggest that gene-culture coevolution favours a conformist bias in social learning, that is, a psychological mechanism to preferentially acquire the most common cultural variants. Here we show that this conclusion relies on specific assumptions that seem unrealistic, such as that all cultural variants are known to every individual. We present two models that remove these assumptions, showing that: 1) the rate of cultural evolution and the adaptive value of culture are higher in a population in which individuals pick cultural variants at random ( Random strategy) rather than picking the most common one ( Conform strategy); 2) in genetic evolution the Random strategy out-competes the Conform strategy, unless cultural evolution is very slow, in which caseConform and Random usually coexist; 3) the individuals’ ability to evaluate cultural variants is a more important determinant of the adaptive value of culture than frequency-based choice strategies. We also review existing empirical literature and game-theoretic arguments for conformity, finding neither strong empirical evidence nor a strong theoretical expectation for a general conformist bias. Our own vignette study of social learning shows that people may indeed use different social learning strategies depending on context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 5, no 1, p. 67-87
National Category
Mathematics Psychology Ethnology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-2860DOI: 10.1556/JEP.2007.1009Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-38749111022OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-2860DiVA, id: diva2:115523
Available from: 2008-01-04 Created: 2008-01-04 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved

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Eriksson, Kimmo

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