Epistasis between cultural traits causes paradigm shifts in cultural evolution.
ABSTRACT: Every now and then the cultural paradigm of a society changes. While current models of cultural shifts usually require a major exogenous or endogenous change, we propose that the mechanism underlying many paradigm shifts may just be an emergent feature of the inherent congruence among different cultural traits. We implement this idea through a population dynamics model in which individuals are defined by a vector of cultural traits that changes mainly through cultural contagion, biased by a 'cultural fitness' landscape, between contemporary individuals. Cultural traits reinforce or hinder each other (through a form of cultural epistasis) to prevent cognitive dissonance. Our main result is that abrupt paradigm shifts occur, in response to weak changes in the landscape, only in the presence of epistasis between cultural traits, and regardless of whether horizontal transmission is biased by homophily. A relevant consequence of this dynamics is the irreversible nature of paradigm shifts: the old paradigm cannot be restored even if the external changes are undone. Our model puts the phenomenon of paradigm shifts in cultural evolution in the same category as catastrophic shifts in ecology or phase transitions in physics, where minute causes lead to major collective changes.
Project description:Culturally transmitted behavior can be structured in its performance both geographically and temporally, in terms of where and when implements are made and used on the landscape (what Ingold calls "the taskscape"). Yet cultural transmission theory has not yet explored the consequences of behaviors transmitted differently due to their enactment at different taskscape locations, what Tostevin calls "taskscape visibility." Here, we use computer simulations to explore how taskscape visibility and forager mobility affect the diversity of two selectively neutral culturally transmitted traits within a single population of social learners. The trait that can be transmitted from residential bases only (lower taskscape visibility) shows greater diversity than the trait that can be transmitted from residential bases and logistical camps (higher taskscape visibility). In addition, increased logistical mobility has a positive effect on the diversity of the trait with the lower taskscape visibility while it generally shows little to no effect on the diversity of the trait with higher taskscape visibility. Without an appreciation for the ways in which taskscape visibility and mobility can structure cultural transmission in space and through time, the difference in the observed equilibrium diversity levels of the two traits might be incorrectly interpreted as resulting from qualitatively different forms of biased cultural transmission. The results of our simulation experiment suggest that researchers may need to take the taskscape visibility into account when inferring cultural transmission from archaeological data.
Project description:How do migration and acculturation (i.e. psychological or behavioral change resulting from migration) affect within- and between-group cultural variation? Here I address this question by drawing analogies between genetic and cultural evolution. Population genetic models show that migration rapidly breaks down between-group genetic structure. In cultural evolution, however, migrants or their descendants can acculturate to local behaviors via social learning processes such as conformity, potentially preventing migration from eliminating between-group cultural variation. An analysis of the empirical literature on migration suggests that acculturation is common, with second and subsequent migrant generations shifting, sometimes substantially, towards the cultural values of the adopted society. Yet there is little understanding of the individual-level dynamics that underlie these population-level shifts. To explore this formally, I present models quantifying the effect of migration and acculturation on between-group cultural variation, for both neutral and costly cooperative traits. In the models, between-group cultural variation, measured using F statistics, is eliminated by migration and maintained by conformist acculturation. The extent of acculturation is determined by the strength of conformist bias and the number of demonstrators from whom individuals learn. Acculturation is countered by assortation, the tendency for individuals to preferentially interact with culturally-similar others. Unlike neutral traits, cooperative traits can additionally be maintained by payoff-biased social learning, but only in the presence of strong sanctioning mechanisms (e.g. institutions). Overall, the models show that surprisingly little conformist acculturation is required to maintain realistic amounts of between-group cultural diversity. While these models provide insight into the potential dynamics of acculturation and migration in cultural evolution, they also highlight the need for more empirical research into the individual-level learning biases that underlie migrant acculturation.
Project description:One of the hallmarks of the human species is our capacity for cumulative culture, in which beneficial knowledge and technology is accumulated over successive generations. Yet previous analyses of cumulative cultural change have failed to consider the possibility that as cultural complexity accumulates, it becomes increasingly costly for each new generation to acquire from the previous generation. In principle this may result in an upper limit on the cultural complexity that can be accumulated, at which point accumulated knowledge is so costly and time-consuming to acquire that further innovation is not possible. In this paper I first review existing empirical analyses of the history of science and technology that support the possibility that cultural acquisition costs may constrain cumulative cultural evolution. I then present macroscopic and individual-based models of cumulative cultural evolution that explore the consequences of this assumption of variable cultural acquisition costs, showing that making acquisition costs vary with cultural complexity causes the latter to reach an upper limit above which no further innovation can occur. These models further explore the consequences of different cultural transmission rules (directly biased, indirectly biased and unbiased transmission), population size, and cultural innovations that themselves reduce innovation or acquisition costs.
Project description:Cultural differences are generally explained by how people see themselves in relation to social interaction partners. While Western culture emphasizes independence, East Asian culture emphasizes interdependence. Despite this focus on social interactions, it remains elusive how people from different cultures process feedback on their own (and on others') character traits. Here, participants of either German or Chinese origin engaged in a face-to-face interaction. Consequently, they updated their self- and other-ratings of 80 character traits (e.g., polite, pedantic) after receiving feedback from their interaction partners. To exclude potential confounds, we obtained data from German and Chinese participants in Berlin [functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)] and in Beijing (behavior). We tested cultural influences on social conformity, positivity biases, and self-related neural activity. First, Chinese conformed more to social feedback than Germans (i.e., Chinese updated their trait ratings more). Second, regardless of culture, participants processed self- and other-related feedback in a positively biased way (i.e., they updated more toward desirable than toward undesirable feedback). Third, changes in self-related medial prefrontal cortex activity were greater in Germans than in Chinese during feedback processing. By investigating conformity, positivity biases, and self-related activity in relation to feedback obtained in a real-life interaction, we provide an essential step toward a unifying framework for understanding the diversity of human culture.
Project description:While populations may wax and wane, it is rare for an entire population to be replaced by a completely different set of individuals. We document the large-scale relocation of cultural groups of sperm whale off the Galápagos Islands, in which two sympatric vocal clans were entirely replaced by two different ones. Between 1985 and 1999, whales from two clans (called Regular and Plus-One) defined by cultural dialects in coda vocalizations were repeatedly photo-identified off Galápagos. Their occurrence in the area declined through the 1990s; by 2000, none remained. We reassessed Galápagos sperm whales in 2013-2014, identifying 463 new females. However, re-sighting rates were low, with no matches with the Galápagos 1985-1999 population, suggesting an eastward shift to coastal areas. Their vocal repertoires matched those of two other clans (called Short and Four-Plus) found across the Pacific but previously rare or absent around Galápagos. The mechanisms behind this cultural turnover may include large-scale environmental regime shifts favouring clan-specific foraging strategies, and a response to heavy whaling in the region involving redistribution of surviving whales into high-quality habitats. The fall and rise of sperm whale cultures off Galápagos reflect the structuring of the Pacific population into large, enduring clans with dynamic ranges. Long-lasting clan membership illustrates how culture can be bound up in the structure and dynamics of animal populations and so how tracking cultural traits can reveal large-scale population shifts.
Project description:Research on cultural products suggest that there are substantial cultural variations between East Asian and European landscape masterpieces and contemporary members' landscape artwork (Masuda et al., 2008c), and that these cultural differences in drawing styles emerge around the age of 8 (Senzaki et al., 2014b). However, culture is not static. To explore the dynamics of historical and ontogenetic influence on artistic expressions, we examined (1) 17-20th century Japanese and Western landscape masterpieces, and (2) cross-sectional adolescent data in landscape artworks alongside previous findings of elementary school-aged children, and undergraduates. The results showed cultural variations in artworks and masterpieces as well as substantial "cultural drifts" (Herskovits, 1948) where at certain time periods in history and in development, people's expressions deviated from culturally default patterns but occasionally returned to its previous state. The bidirectional influence of culture and implications for furthering the discipline of cultural psychology will be discussed.
Project description:Social theorists have long recognized that changes in social order have cultural consequences but have not been able to provide an individual-level mechanism of such effects. Explanations of human behavior have only just begun to explore the different evolutionary dynamics of social and cultural inheritance. Here we provide ethnographic evidence of how cultural evolution, at the level of individuals, can be influenced by social evolution. Sociocultural epistasis--association of cultural ideas with the hierarchical structure of social roles--influences cultural change in unexpected ways. We document the existence of cultural exaptation, where a custom's origin was not due to acceptance of the later associated ideas. A cultural exaptation can develop in the absence of a cultural idea favoring it, or even in the presence of a cultural idea against it. Such associations indicate a potentially larger role for social evolutionary dynamics in explaining individual human behavior than previously anticipated.
Project description:Many cultural traits are not transmitted independently, but together as a package. This can happen because, for example, media may store information together making it more likely to be transmitted together, or through cognitive mechanisms such as causal reasoning. Evolutionary biology suggests that physical linkage of genes (being on the same chromosome) allows neutral and maladaptive genes to spread by hitchhiking on adaptive genes, while the pairwise difference between neutral genes is unaffected. Whether packaging may lead to similar dynamics in cultural evolution is unclear. To understand the effect of cultural packages on cultural evolutionary dynamics, we built an agent-based simulation that allows links to form and break between cultural traits. During transmission, one trait and others that are directly or indirectly connected to it are transmitted together in a package. We compare variation in cultural traits between different rates of link formation and breakage and find that an intermediate frequency of links can lower cultural diversity, which can be misinterpreted as a signature of payoff bias or conformity. Further, cultural hitchhiking can occur when links are common.
Project description:Shifts in social structure and cultural practices can potentially promote unusual combinations of allele frequencies that drive the evolution of genetic and phenotypic novelties during human evolution. These cultural practices act in combination with geographical and linguistic barriers and can promote faster evolutionary changes shaped by gene-culture interactions. However, specific cases indicative of this interaction are scarce. Here we show that quantitative genetic parameters obtained from cephalometric data taken on 1,203 individuals analyzed in combination with genetic, climatic, social, and life-history data belonging to six South Amerindian populations are compatible with a scenario of rapid genetic and phenotypic evolution, probably mediated by cultural shifts. We found that the Xavánte experienced a remarkable pace of evolution: the rate of morphological change is far greater than expected for its time of split from their sister group, the Kayapó, which occurred around 1,500 y ago. We also suggest that this rapid differentiation was possible because of strong social-organization differences. Our results demonstrate how human groups deriving from a recent common ancestor can experience variable paces of phenotypic divergence, probably as a response to different cultural or social determinants. We suggest that assembling composite databases involving cultural and biological data will be of key importance to unravel cases of evolution modulated by the cultural environment.
Project description:Mountain regions meet an increasing demand for pleasant landscapes, offering many cultural ecosystem services to both their residents and tourists. As a result of global change, land managers and policy makers are faced with changes to this landscape and need efficient evaluation techniques to assess cultural ecosystem services. This study provides a spatially explicit modelling approach to estimating aesthetic landscape values by relating spatial landscape patterns to human perceptions via a photo-based survey. The respondents attributed higher aesthetic values to the Alpine landscape in respect to areas with settlements, infrastructure or intensive agricultural use. The aesthetic value of two study areas in the Central Alps (Stubai Valley, Austria and Vinschgau, Italy) was modelled for 10,215 viewpoints along hiking trails according to current land cover and a scenario considering the spontaneous reforestation of abandoned land. Viewpoints with high aesthetic values were mainly located at high altitude, allowing long vistas, and included views of lakes or glaciers, and the lowest values were for viewpoints close to streets and in narrow valleys with little view. The aesthetic values of the reforestation scenario decreased mainly at higher altitudes, but the whole area was affected, reducing aesthetic value by almost 10% in Stubai Valley and 15% in Vinschgau. Our proposed modelling approach allows the estimation of aesthetic values in spatial and qualitative terms for most viewpoints in the European Alps. The resulting maps can be used as information and the basis for discussion by stakeholders, to support the decision-making process and landscape planning. This paper also discusses the role of mountain farming in preserving an attractive landscape and related cultural values.