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Theor Popul Biol. 2011 Jun;79(4):192-202. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2011.02.001. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

Rates of cultural change and patterns of cultural accumulation in stochastic models of social transmission.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Hongo 7-3-1, Bunkyoku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan. kenaoki@biol.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Abstract

Cultural variation in a population is affected by the rate of occurrence of cultural innovations, whether such innovations are preferred or eschewed, how they are transmitted between individuals in the population, and the size of the population. An innovation, such as a modification in an attribute of a handaxe, may be lost or may become a property of all handaxes, which we call "fixation of the innovation." Alternatively, several innovations may attain appreciable frequencies, in which case properties of the frequency distribution-for example, of handaxe measurements-is important. Here we apply the Moran model from the stochastic theory of population genetics to study the evolution of cultural innovations. We obtain the probability that an initially rare innovation becomes fixed, and the expected time this takes. When variation in cultural traits is due to recurrent innovation, copy error, and sampling from generation to generation, we describe properties of this variation, such as the level of heterogeneity expected in the population. For all of these, we determine the effect of the mode of social transmission: conformist, where there is a tendency for each naïve newborn to copy the most popular variant; pro-novelty bias, where the newborn prefers a specific variant if it exists among those it samples; one-to-many transmission, where the variant one individual carries is copied by all newborns while that individual remains alive. We compare our findings with those predicted by prevailing theories for rates of cultural change and the distribution of cultural variation.

PMID:
21315753
DOI:
10.1016/j.tpb.2011.02.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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