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Modeling the genealogy of a cultural trait
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution. City University of New York, United States.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution. City University of New York, United States; Brooklyn College, United States.
2015 (English)In: Theoretical Population Biology, ISSN 0040-5809, E-ISSN 1096-0325, Vol. 101, 1-8 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The mathematical study of genealogies has yielded important insights in population biology, such as the ability to estimate the time to the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of a sample of genetic sequences or of a group of individuals. Here we introduce a model of cultural genealogies that is a step toward answering similar questions for cultural traits. In our model individuals can inherit from a variable, potentially large number of ancestors, rather than from a fixed, small number of ancestors (one or two) as is typical of genetic evolution. We first show that, given a sample of individuals, a cultural common ancestor does not necessarily exist. We then introduce a related concept: the most recent unique ancestor (MRUA), i.e., the most recent single individual who is the earliest cultural ancestor of the sample. We show that, under neutral evolution, the time to the MRUA can be staggeringly larger than the time to MRCA in a single ancestor model, except when the average number of learning opportunities per individuals is small. Our results point out that the properties of cultural genealogies may be very different from those of genetic genealogies, with potential implications for reconstructing the histories of cultural traits.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 101, 1-8 p.
Keyword [en]
Cultural evolution, Genealogical processes, Most recent common ancestor, Most recent unique ancestor
National Category
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-125189DOI: 10.1016/j.tpb.2014.12.007OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-125189DiVA: diva2:892070
Available from: 2016-01-08 Created: 2016-01-08 Last updated: 2016-07-05Bibliographically approved

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Ghirlanda, Stefano
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Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution
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