Evolution of Social Learning and the Origin of Human Cumulative Culture

Because culture requires transmission of information between individuals, thinking about the origin of culture has mainly focused on the genetic evolution of abilities for social learning. Current theory considers how social learning affects the adaptiveness of a single cultural trait, yet human culture consists of the accumulation of very many traits. Here we introduce a new modeling strategy that tracks the adaptive value of many cultural traits, showing that genetic evolution favors only limited social learning owing to the accumulation of maladaptive as well as adaptive culture. We further show that culture can be adaptive, and refined social learning can evolve if individuals can identify and discard maladaptive culture. This suggests that the evolution of such ‘‘adaptive filtering’’ mechanisms may have been crucial for the birth of human culture.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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