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The advantage of multiple cultural parents in the cultural transmission of stories
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution.
2012 (English)In: Evolution and human behavior, ISSN 1090-5138, Vol. 33, no 4, 251-259 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Recent mathematical modeling of repeated cultural transmission has shown that the rate at which culture is lost (due to imperfect transmission) will crucially depend on whether individuals receive transmissions from many cultural parents or only from one. However, the modeling assumptions leading up to this conclusion have so far not been empirically assessed. Here we do this for the special case of transmission chains where each individual either receives the same story twice from one cultural parent (and retransmits twice to a cultural child) or receives possibly different versions of the story from two cultural parents (and then retransmits to two cultural children). For this case, we first developed a more general mathematical model of cultural retention that takes into account the possibility of dependence of error rates between transmissions. In this model, under quite plausible assumptions, chains with two cultural parents will have superior retention of culture. This prediction was then tested in two experiments using both written and oral modes of transmission. In both cases, superior retention of culture was found in chains with two cultural parents. Estimation of model parameters indicated that error rates were not identical and independent between transmissions; instead, a primacy effect was suggested, such that the first transmission tends to have higher fidelity than the second transmission.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 33, no 4, 251-259 p.
Keyword [en]
Cultural transmission, Social learning, Serial reproduction, Multiple cultural parents
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-80395DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.10.002ISI: 000305863200001OAI: diva2:556383


Available from: 2012-09-25 Created: 2012-09-19 Last updated: 2012-09-25Bibliographically approved

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