Cultural Tradition In The Natural

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Cultural Tradition In The Natural

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Cultural units do not form lineages : A closely-related criticism of memetics draws on the fact that while in genetic replication we can trace a new copy of a gene back to a single parent, ideas are rarely copied from a single source in a way that allows us to trace clear lineages Boyd and Richerson Memeticists are fond of analysing religious belief in terms of the spread of memes. But while religious beliefs may well spread through populations of humans, it seems unlikely that we will always be able to trace token instances of faith back to one source.

Instead, individuals often acquire belief in God through exposure to several believers in their local community. In these circumstances, belief in God is not caused by one identifiable earlier token of the same type. This suggests a practical limitation on enquiry that may result from this difference between ideas and genes. Criticisms of this form have been put especially forcefully by William Wimsatt , who argues that the creative and inferential abilities of human users make it the case that any given idea, or item of technology, can have fluctuating numbers of cultural parents over time.

This is because the causal sources of its reproduction may vary. Belief in God may sometimes be caused by exposure to a single charismatic evangelist, it may sometimes be caused by the joint inculcation of two biological parents, and it may sometimes be caused by immersion in a diffuse community of theists. Ideas and items of technology also have no stable analogue to the genome, or germline, because different elements within cycles of technological reproduction, including ideas, behaviours of artisans, and material elements of technologies themselves, can all temporarily acquire the status of replicators depending on the attention that human agents happen to be paying to them.

Wimsatt uses these disanalogies to highlight the formidable problems facing any effort to use population genetic models in the explanation of cultural change. Culture cannot be atomised into discrete units : Ideas stand in logical relations to each other. Whether an individual is able to acquire some belief, for example, depends on their related conceptual competencies. It is impossible to believe in the theory of relativity without understanding it, and one cannot understand it without holding many additional beliefs relating to physics. The same is true for non-technical beliefs. Depending on which religion one is talking about, belief in God is likely to be related to various other beliefs concerning forgiveness, retribution, love and so forth. This has led some critics to argue that it is a mistake to take a view of culture which atomises it into discrete units, assigning replicative power to them individually.

For there is a sense in which genes, too, need to be studied in a context that takes other genes, and their broader developmental and environmental settings, into account. A DNA sequence can have different effects in different organisms, depending on the network of relations it enters into with other genetic and developmental resources. These criticisms focus on whether there truly are memes. But there are also criticisms of the usefulness of the meme concept, regardless of whether memes exist. As was already indicated above, one might worry that memetics merely offers a cosmetic re-packaging of a familiar set of stories about cultural change.

Perhaps science is composed of replicating entities struggling against various selection pressures, but what insight does this offer us, if in the end it presents us with nothing more than an alternative idiom in which to describe the various factors that affect the evaluation of scientific hypotheses? Perhaps clothes fashions are memes, but even if that is the case, one still needs to explain what makes one clothing meme fitter than another, and the fear is that once spelled out this will quickly boil down to a well-known appeal to consumer psychology. Meme theorists tend to begin with a general characterisation of evolution by natural selection, namely as a process that requires differential competition between replicators.

Hence the meme theorist looks for some strict analogue to the gene in the cultural realm, which can play the replicator role. Dawkins implies that it is only because humans are subject to colonisation by replicators other than genes that human evolution escapes the tyranny of the gene. On this view, memes are required in order to free our species from a form of biological determinism. The alternative to this view begins with the observation that cultural inheritance is important, and it seeks to integrate cultural inheritance into traditional evolutionary models. But this general motivation leaves open the issue of whether cultural evolution requires the existence of cultural replicators.

Clearly one can accept many of the criticisms of the meme concept, and still attempt to model the effects of cultural inheritance. The interest of cultural evolutionary models in this tradition is sometimes simply to show how cultural change of various sorts—not necessarily adaptive cultural change—can subsequently affect genetic evolution, and vice versa. This is the general goal of models of gene-culture co-evolution. But cultural evolutionary models also aim to assess the role of cultural inheritance in the construction of adaptation: here, cultural evolutionary theorists are not merely seeking to explain distributions of traits in populations, they are seeking to explain the appearance of valuable cultural novelties Godfrey-Smith One might think that even if cultural change does not require cultural replicators, at least adaptive cultural change does.

The general Darwinian scheme for explaining adaptation demands reliable inheritance—it demands that once a fitness-augmenting mutation arises, it can be retained in future generations. If cultural learning is error-prone, or if individuals acquire cultural traits by taking an average of many different models, then one might think that if some individual is able to discover a fitness-enhancing behaviour, that trait will be lost to future generations either because it is mis-copied, or because it is combined with other less adaptive traits to produce an averaged mish-mash of a behaviour.

All of these inferences have been challenged by recent cultural evolutionary theory. Cultural evolutionists agree that at the level of the population, cumulative evolution requires that fitness-enhancing cultural traits are preserved in the offspring generation. However, they deny that this requires faithful transmission between individuals. A formal model from Henrich and Boyd suggests that conformist bias can overcome the effects of error-prone learning to produce reliable inheritance at the population level. Conformist bias was defined, in section 2 above, as the tendency of individuals to adopt the most common representation in a population.

Henrich and Boyd cite evidence that conformist bias is a real phenomenon although again see Lewens for scepticism about the case for conformism. Even so, they argue that when we look to the population level, conformist bias helps to correct the effects of such errors, producing a population-wide distribution of representations in the offspring generation that is close to the population-wide distribution of representations in the parent generation. Henrich and Boyd explain the reason for this. In general, error-prone transmission has a tendency to produce a mixture of different representations.

In a population that already contains several different representations at significant frequencies, the effect of error on a population-wide distribution of representations is therefore low. In a population in which one representation is common, the effects of error are much more significant. But if we add conformist bias, we increase the chances of a commonly held representation remaining commonly held in future generations, even with error-prone imitation. Boyd and Henrich acknowledge that this does not make population-level distributions perfectly reliably inherited. But this does not show that cumulative evolution acting on cultural inheritance is impossible. At the genetic level, highly faithful copying processes allow even very small selective forces to preserve adaptive variation.

Less faithful copying demands stronger selective forces if adaptive variation is not to be lost. Boyd and Henrich are confident that selective forces in the cultural realm are stronger than selective forces in the genetic realm. The moral, once again, is that it is important not to focus too closely on genetic evolution as a model for cultural evolution. Memetics tends to be driven by a desire to see cultural analogies to genetic evolution. Cultural evolutionary models in the manner of Boyd and Henrich are driven instead by a desire to find ways of understanding how cultural inheritance affects evolutionary processes.

These sorts of cultural evolutionary models do not assume that cultural inheritance works in the same way as genetic inheritance. Indeed, they are free to model cultural inheritance in ways that depart quite markedly from genetic inheritance. Yet they remain recognisably evolutionary in style, primarily because they seek to explain the changes in trait frequencies in a population over time.

Moreover, these rules for cultural acquisition are not merely conjectured, they are given experimental backing. Cultural evolutionary theorists seek to document the effects of various empirically supported forms of bias, such as prestige bias. At the beginning of this entry it was claimed that the case for cultural evolution was irresistible. No one can deny that cultural inheritance is an important factor in explaining how our species has changed over time. Cultural inheritance is not merely a process that acts in parallel to genetic evolution, it is intertwined with genetic evolution.

Cultural changes bring about alterations to the environment, which in turn affect both how genes act in development, and what selection pressures act on genes. In spite of all this, one might still worry that it is a mistake to understand the importance of culture using the tools of evolutionary theory. This is because one may be sceptical of the existence of a theory that is both general enough to cover all forms of cultural change, and informative enough to be enlightening.

There is no doubt that it is often important to remind overly-enthusiastic orthodox Darwinians of the importance of culture. For example, it seems that the increased incidence of lactose-tolerance among human populations has arisen as a consequence of a cultural innovation—namely dairy farming. The relatively recent appearance of this genetically-controlled adaptation demonstrates that human physiological nature is something that continues to change, and it also demonstrates the causal impact of culture on genes Richerson and Boyd , — Such examples by themselves show the rashness of any view that claims either that human nature has remained fixed since the Stone Age, or that genes are somehow in the evolutionary driving seat.

Yet none of this shows that we can develop a general, informative theory of cultural evolution. One might fear that in the end cultural change, and the influence of cultural change on other aspects of the human species, are best understood through a series of individual narratives. Our brief examination of memetics illustrated this concern. We gain no real explanatory insight if we are told that ideas spread through populations, some more successfully than others. We want to know what makes some ideas fitter than others. And it is not clear that there will be any general rules that can help us to answer this question.

In the biological realm we need detailed accounts of local environmental circumstances, species-specific physiology and anatomy, and so forth, to tell us what makes one organic variant fitter than another. Similarly, in the cultural realm we will need to look at local psychological dispositions to explain why some ideas are more likely to spread than others. So any explanatory value to be had from memetics is parasitic on conventional work done in psychology. And if individual preferences are subject to change over time, then there may be no general and informative theory of cultural evolution to be had; rather, we will have to settle for local explanations that look to shifting preferences. Rather than provide a new scientific framework for an understanding of culture, memetics will tend to degenerate into conventional narrative cultural history.

In the remaining sections I distinguish five broad sets of responses to this line of argument, each of which picks up on a different explanatory element of mainstream evolutionary theory Lewens They can be yoked together to provide a broad justification for the payoffs of a cultural evolutionary perspective Lewens Third, Richerson, Boyd, Henrich and others have stressed the importance of cumulative cultural adaptation, alongside a specific set of explanatory puzzles that these phenomena present Richerson and Boyd , Henrich Fourth, Sterelny , , a, b, , and Wimsatt argue that illuminating insights regarding the general conditions required for evolvability also apply in the cultural realm.

Fifth, many have argued that cultural evolutionary theories can provide insights into the historical patterns of cultural change, in much the same way that evolutionary biological tools have enabled us to reconstruct the branching or perhaps reticulated history of life. We will look at each line of defence in turn. Meanwhile, Sterelny and Lewens offer overviews of some of the main conceptual divisions within the field. For Boyd and Richerson it denotes any effort to abstract from a characterisation of individual psychological profiles, in a way that allows an exploration of the consequences of these individual-level dispositions for population-level properties.

We have already seen an example of this sort of population thinking in action. It is far from obvious that conformist bias among individuals can enable population-level inheritance in spite of individual-level errors in copying. To show that these properties of individual psychology conformist bias and error-prone learning combine to yield population-level inheritance requires some abstract mathematical modelling. And the establishment of this population-level consequence is important, for it enables the investigator to revise the constraints one might naively think must bear on cultural inheritance if cumulative cultural evolution is to occur.

In a useful article, Elliott Sober suggests that theories of cultural evolution may have limited value for the work of social scientists, on the grounds that social scientists are primarily interested in explaining what makes individuals likely to adopt one idea, rather than another. They want to know, for example, why nineteenth-century Italian women decided that they would rather have two children than five, not what the population-level consequences of their decisions might be.

As we have seen, it takes work to show that cumulative cultural adaptation does not require replication. They seek, for example, to explain the disappearance of important technologies on Tasmania. Drawing on the work of Joseph Henrich, they suggest Richerson and Boyd , that the maintenance of technologies and the associated behaviours required to produce and operate them may require a population that is large enough for the rate of innovation to offset the degradation that results from error-prone imitation.

If Boyd and Richerson are right about this episode in the history of Tasmania, then we may be able to explain the differences in the abilities of the Tasmanians, compared with other peoples, to maintain a set of technologies, merely by citing population size, rather than other forms of social or cultural difference. At the same time, this abstraction constitutes a potential strength of the populational approach, for it offers us the possibility of understanding a complex system without needing comprehensive information about all of its parts. Moreover, they argue that this approach frequently although not always gives rise to explanations that elude approaches grounded in forms of cultural selection.

As indicated earlier, Sperber argues that the simple notion of copying is only rarely appropriate to explain why broadly similar cultural items propagate in a stable manner through a population. Instead, a shared set of background emotional dispositions, perhaps coupled to shared norms for public behaviour, conspire to reconstruct a second emotional state that is similar to the first. An attractor should not simply be equated with an idea that is psychologically attractive to individuals Sperber , Buskell Instead, it is a more abstract notion corresponding to any more-or-less stable outcome of processes of cultural reproduction. For example, if a widely-encountered engineering problem has only a few effective solutions, which are also easy to figure out, then we should expect those solutions to appear again and again, even if individuals are not attempting to copy the innovations of others in detail.

In other words, factors of attraction need not be psychological at all, and can instead correspond to physical or ecological constraints. Shared bodies of information, shared preferences and shared emotional or inferential biases might also explain why some cultural variants re-appear with regularity. Some such attractors may be grounded in evolved cognitive dispositions shared by almost everyone. When drawing on these factors of attraction, Sperber and like-minded colleagues have often declared explicit debts to evolutionary psychology Sperber Yet attractors can also be more local, corresponding to more narrowly shared cognitive dispositions or biases, common only to small communities.

Such dispositions can explain reproduction that is only reliable across narrowly specified cultural contexts. Work in this tradition e. Morin aims to answer the charge that the cultural evolutionary approach is vacuous via the detailed delineation of such factors of attraction, and their populational consequences, at various spatial and temporal scales. Some theorists begin their presentations of cultural evolutionary theory by arguing that cultural change meets the conditions for evolution by natural selection stressed by Darwin. They argue, for example, that in the realm of culture we find ample variation—there are alternative ways of making pots, alternative designs for kayaks, and so forth—that there are differences in the likelihood of these variants being preserved or multiplied in future generations—dependent on whether the pots in question look attractive, whether the different forms of kayak are easy to handle—and that there is adequately faithful reproduction as these techniques or designs travel from one individual to another.

In other words, we find some version of variation, differential fitness and inheritance instantiated in the cultural context, as well as in the organic realm that Darwin primarily focused on. One of the risks of approaching the cultural evolution project in this abstract manner, which begins with the hunt for general similarities between the cultural and organic domains, has already been touched on. While we secure the general claim that a form of natural selection applies in the cultural domain, we can lose sight of what specific explanatory problems a theory of cultural evolution is supposed to address. As we have seen, other presentations of cultural evolution begin in a more pragmatic, problem-driven fashion.

In some cases they begin with explanatory puzzles similar to those that led Darwin to formulate his principle of natural selection in the first place. Darwin was concerned to explain how structures could arise which fit organisms so remarkably well to their conditions of existence. Cultural evolutionists frequently draw attention to a variety of adaptive cultural traits, whose origination seems inexplicable in terms of individual innovation alone.

Henrich , 97— , for example, makes good use of the example of manioc processing. Manioc also called cassava is a good source of starch, but it needs to be processed to make it safe to eat. Without this processing it can release poisonous hydrogen cyanide. According to Henrich, while unprocessed manioc tastes bitter, the bitter taste is not a good indicator of its safety: bitterness disappears in the preparation process before it becomes safe to eat.

Worse, while unprocessed manioc is poisonous, it is hard to discover that this is the case, because the symptoms of poisoning only appear well after eating unsafe manioc. Henrich argues that it is hard to see how any single insightful individual could have invented this processing technology. Instead, a more gradual process of cumulative cultural adaptation, spread across the population, must be invoked. In other words, the rationale for turning to selection is the same in both the cultural and organic domains. As Darwin , noted, humans are regularly moved to act in ways that benefit others, even when those others are not members of extended families. This explanation has been updated across a long series of publications by Richerson, Boyd and others, who also aim to explain the very widespread tendencies of modern humans to share valuable resources across broad social networks e.

Richerson and Boyd , Richerson et al. Their view is that the resources of more mainstream evolutionary theory are not up to this explanatory task. Kin selection is insufficient, they say, because humans regularly share with people outside their immediate family groups. Moreover, they take the view that the Pleistocene social groups in which they believe these sharing behaviours evolved were probably too large for reciprocal altruism to explain their emergence. Once cultural transmission has established this social environment, natural selection acting on genetic variation then favours an innate psychology that is suited to this new, socially-inherited set of environmental problems. The very idea of group selection is a controversial one. Many commentators have taken a sceptical view of group selection when underpinned by genetic inheritance, because of worries that competition based on genetic variation within groups will tend to undermine the effects of competition between groups.

Several cultural evolutionists e. Boyd and Richerson , Henrich have argued that cultural inheritance processes are better able than processes of genetic inheritance to sustain between-group differences, for they believe there is good empirical and theoretical evidence that cultural processes can maintain within-group homogeneity in the face of various countervailing factors immigration, unreliable imitation and so forth. Needless to say, this work is contentious. It is possible to challenge the claims made about the innateness of the social psychological dispositions in question, the characterisation of likely Pleistocene social groups, the inability of more traditional evolutionary resources to explain our altruistic tendencies, and so forth see Birch Such challenges are inevitable when a hypothesis is as ambitious as this one, and when it draws on such a variety of supporting sources of data.

There are also conceptual concerns. A recent paper lists three different forms of cultural group selection, of which straightforward competition between groups is just one variant Richerson et al. The authors also offer selective imitation by individuals of individuals in successful groups, and selective migration by individuals into successful groups, as two further types of cultural group selection. These are indeed additional ways by which behavioural traits that are of benefit to a group can increase in frequency in a larger population of groups.

Because of this, thinking of them as forms of group selection may introduce confusion see also Morin Regardless of these worries, it is clear that the cultural group selection explanation for forms of altruistic behaviour marks a significant effort to synthesise theory and evidence across a wide set of domains. A closely related way to vindicate models of cultural evolution looks to the question of the general features of inheritance systems that make for evolvability in a lineage. This project has been pioneered in recent years by Kim Sterelny e.

Once again, let us illustrate the general nature of these issues by beginning in the organic realm. The basic conditions for natural selection do not, in spite of appearances, suffice for the appearance of functional traits. A system in which offspring resemble parents with respect to fitness-enhancing traits may not develop complex adaptations. The environment needs to cooperate: if selective pressures change very quickly then there will be no sustained environmental demands of the sort that might build complex adaptations over time. Development also matters.

If ontogeny is set up in such a way that changes to any one trait tend to be accompanied by changes to all other traits, then the chances are that cumulative adaptation will be particularly hard to come by. For even in those cases where a mutation contributes positively to the function of one trait, the chances are that it will contribute negatively to overall fitness in virtue of its disruption of the functioning of other traits. Development also needs to make a wide range of variation available. If it is highly constrained, so that only a small number of forms are possible, then selection is not presented with a broad enough range of raw materials from which to fashion complex traits.

This occurs when individual organisms go it alone, sabotaging complex features of group organisation in favour of their own fitness. Individual-level selection, in contrast, can build individual-level adaptations. By applying these sorts of considerations to the cultural realm we can attempt to understand the likely costs and benefits associated with various different forms of cultural inheritance vertical, oblique, meme-like and so forth. We can also perhaps come to an understanding of the different evolutionary forces that might bring these different forms of cultural inheritance into existence. And, in turn, these insights may facilitate comparative work that seeks to document the general conditions that are required for a species to make use of cultural inheritance in order to build complex adaptations such as tools.

This way of thinking offers the promise, for example, of explaining why few, if any, non-human species are able to build progressively more and more complex cultural features in a cumulative manner Richerson and Boyd , ; see also Laland The exploration of the significance of these conditions in the cultural realm is contentious, partly because the conditions for evolvability themselves are disputed see Godfrey-Smith Questions relating to evolvability are also tied up with difficult issues relating to the units-of-selection debate Okasha Does something like this occur in the cultural realm? Does selection on human groups act so as to limit the ability of individual humans to go it alone?

In what ways might cultural inheritance be involved in these processes? These questions are complex, both in terms of how they should be posed and how they should be answered. But some of the most interesting work in cultural evolutionary theory may come from efforts to answer them. Issues relating to evolvability are sometimes framed in terms of systems of information transfer. On this view, if offspring are to resemble parents, developmental information must be transmitted from one generation to the next.

The question is what forms of information transmission system do this job. This mode of framing the issue is contentious, for it is not always clear how we are to understand the concept of information, and what it means for some causal contributor to development to count as an information-bearer, rather than some other kind of developmental participant, such as an information-reader, say, or a background condition for information transfer see Oyama and Griffiths for discussion of these issues. Maynard Smith and Szathmary propose that we can think of these events as modifications to the mechanisms of inter-generational information transmission.

Jablonka and Lamb argue that thinking in terms of information transmission systems also allows us to point out salient differences in the forms of social transmission underlying cultural evolution. They claim that only some forms of social transmission make use of a system of symbols. Consider, for example, that to say that some birds inherit their song by social transmission is not to say that birdsong is a symbolic system. Humans, on the other hand, trade in publicly-accessible symbols. Moreover, repositories of symbols, most obviously in the form of libraries and computer databases, are vital inheritance systems for humans, allowing the preservation and accumulation of knowledge across generations.

Note, also, that there are different types of symbol system. In some cases the relationship between a symbol and what is represented is arbitrary. Jablonka and Lamb use the characteristic differences between typical modes of social inheritance in animals and humans to illuminate the impact our own symbolic transmission systems have on human cultural evolution see also Deacon Although they argue that there can be non-linguistic symbolic systems , , language exemplifies nicely the way in which systems of symbols contain elements that can be recombined in countless ways to yield a vast array of different meaningful messages.

Repositories of symbolically stored information, such as books, can also be searched, annotated, edited and so forth, in ways that add to their power and versatility. This manner of thinking opens up a number of challenging issues. The question of the degree to which symbolic systems resemble other inheritance systems is an illuminating one. One quickly realises that any attempt to say precisely what makes some inheritance system a symbolic system, and any attempt to differentiate between types of symbolic systems linguistic, non-linguistic and so forth , will be exceptionally philosophically demanding.

Many evolutionists have argued that biological tools can have great value when we wish to develop a historical view of the pattern of cultural change see, for example, Gray at al , Mace and Holden this section itself draws on Lewens A variety of biological methods have been developed that help us to uncover the structure of evolutionary trees: they help us to understand which taxa split from which others and when. It seems clear that cultural items of many kinds most obviously languages, but also tools and techniques also stand in recognizable genealogical relationships, and this has led many biological anthropologists to use phylogenetic methods borrowed or adapted from the biological sciences in order to reconstruct the history of borrowings in the cultural realm.

Critics have sometimes followed Gould in arguing that these biological methods cannot be properly applied to the cultural realm, because cultural genealogies take the form of reticulated networks, rather than branching trees. Cultural change is indeed often highly reticulated: it is obvious that a complex object like a car is a confluence of numerous technical lineages, which come together to form the hi-fi system, the engine, the safety devices, and so forth. Moreover, as improvements are made to cars these new developments may be borrowed by innovators of bicycles, furniture, toys and other shifting constellations of artifacts.

These important observations need not undermine the project of cultural phylogeny. Much of biological evolution is also reticulated. Bacteria, for example, do not form genealogically isolated lineages, hybridization is rife among plants, and there is also considerable borrowing of elements of the genome between apparently isolated mammalian species. But cultural evolutionists e. Gray et al. This kind of work is important, in part because of the uses to which well-confirmed cultural phylogenies can be put. It may be easiest to illustrate their value via a simple example.

On the face of things, looking for correlations is a reasonable albeit fallible way to discover causal relationships. If, for example, people who smoke often get lung cancer, and people with lung cancer are often smokers, then we have good evidence that smoking causes lung cancer or perhaps that lung cancer causes smoking. But there can be strong correlations that do not indicate causation. If, for example, we find that there is a strong correlation in animals between making a moo sound and producing large quantities of milk, we should not conclude that one causes the other. Mooing and milk production go together because the creatures in question share ancestors in common, who both mooed and gave lots of milk.

Of course, in the case of cows this fact of common ancestry is so obvious that we hardly notice how it informs our causal inference. But cultural phylogenies are unobvious. Russell Gray, among others, has long argued that when we understand them better, our knowledge of phylogenies can then confirm, or undermine, causal hypotheses that are claimed on the basis of correlation. Gray and Watts , for example, have scrutinised what is sometimes called the Supernatural Punishment Hypothesis.

This is the hypothesis that belief in powerful gods, who inflict punishment on wrongdoers, tends to result in societies that are better able to harness the fruits of cooperation see Norenzayan et al. We must also take into account the potentially confounding consequences of shared ancestry among the societies surveyed. Gray and Watts draw on Austronesian data to argue that belief in moralising high gods tends to be gained after, not before, the emergence of political complexity; so these data, they suggest, undermine the thought that moralising high gods drive this form of complexity.

That said, they do find some support for a weaker supernatural punishment hypothesis based on belief in punishment interventions from natural spirits, ancestral spirits and mythical heroes, as well as from moralising high gods. Work such as this indicates the potential for cultural phylogenetics to inform broad-sweep hypotheses about not just the patterns, but also the causal processes, that have marked the cultural history of our species. In a species like ours it is hardly ever the case that what an individual learns is free from influence by others. The structures and contents of our dwellings and workplaces, the constitutions of the domesticated plants and animals we interact with, the cultivated and engineered environments we live in, all have been affected by the activities of our predecessors.

The overlap between individual and social forms of learning has significance for research on non-human, as well as the human, species. The group of wild chimpanzees studied by Hobaiter et al. Some then began to make these sponges from moss instead. The researchers saw one individual develop this behaviour because she re-used an old moss sponge, which had previously been discarded by another chimp. But she did not do this because she had seen the sponge in use.

As that distinction blurs, so the further question of what culture consists in becomes less clear Lewens For there are numerous ways in which activities of one generation can, by altering or maintaining stable features of biotic, social and technical environments, have an influence over what individuals in the following generations end up learning. These phenomena are recognised by many prominent theorists of cultural evolution.

Laland et al. Critics of these final comments e. Clarke and Heyes have urged that we seek more detailed information concerning whether individual learning—which, as we have seen, can take place in felicitously structured environments—truly is less sophisticated than forms of learning that attend directly to the behaviours of others. We need to ask both whether there is an additional form of sophistication in the cognitive mechanisms that underpin social compared with individual learning, and also whether social learning has greater functionality, specifically with respect to the generation of increasingly refined behaviours, technologies, norms and institutions across populations.

These are just the types of questions to which the methods of cultural evolutionary work—which combine populational modelling with work in cognitive science—are well placed to give answers. Darwinism epistemology: evolutionary evolution heritability James, William natural selection psychology: evolutionary replication and reproduction Spencer, Herbert. What is Cultural Evolution? Natural Selection and Cultural Inheritance 3. These changes are often reactions against the prior cultural form, which typically has grown stale and repetitive. An obsession emerges among the mainstream with the new movement, and the old one falls into neglect — sometimes it dies out entirely, but often it chugs along favored in a few disciplines and occasionally making reappearances sometimes prefixed with "neo-".

There is continual argument over the precise definition of each of these periods, and one historian might group them differently, or choose different names or descriptions. As well, even though in many cases the popular change from one to the next can be swift and sudden, the beginning and end of movements are somewhat subjective, as the movements did not spring fresh into existence out of the blue and did not come to an abrupt end and lose total support, as would be suggested by a date range. Thus use of the term "period" is somewhat deceptive. Historians will be able to find distinctive traces of a cultural movement before its accepted beginning, and there will always be new creations in old forms. So it can be more useful to think in terms of broad "movements" that have rough beginnings and endings.

Yet for historical perspective, some rough date ranges will be provided for each to indicate the "height" or accepted time span of the movement. This current article covers western, notably European and American cultural movements. They have, however, been paralleled by cultural movements in the Orient and elsewhere. In the late 20th and early 21st century in Thailand, for example, there has been a cultural shift away from western social and political values more toward Japanese and Chinese.

As well, That culture has reinvigorated monarchical concepts to accommodate state shifts away from western ideology regarding democracy and monarchies. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. December Learn how and when to remove this template message. This article does not cite any sources.

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