ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture
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ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture
A collection of links, papers, conference announcements and talks on Social Learning and Cultural Evolution. More about us: visit Early-career Social Learning Researchers https://www.eslrsociety.org
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New research: Specializations in cognition generalize across contexts – cowbirds are consistent in nest prospecting and foraging tasks

New research: Specializations in cognition generalize across contexts – cowbirds are consistent in nest prospecting and foraging tasks | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it
The authors tested how female cowbirds use social and personal information when foraging. Females varied in their personal accuracy and social conformity. Females did not conform when they could rely on their own information. Females were the most conformist when they could not rely on their own information. Behaviour used when foraging was consistent with that used for nest prospecting.

Davies, Hayden B., and David J. White. "Specializations in cognition generalize across contexts: cowbirds are consistent in nest prospecting and foraging tasks." Animal Behaviour 144 (2018): 1-7
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Research article: Foraging bumblebees use social cues more when the task is difficult

Research article: Foraging bumblebees use social cues more when the task is difficult | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"When foraging in their natural environment, many animals readily complement their personal knowledge with additional social information. To balance the costs and benefits of copying others, animals have to discern situations in which it is more advantageous to use social rather than personal information. Here, we used foraging bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) in a controlled laboratory setting and showed that the difficulty of a foraging task affects how the bees weight the 2 types of information. We used artificial flowers to devise easy and difficult discriminatory tasks, and tested the influence of floral and social cues on decision making. When facing an easy discrimination task, foraging bees were likely to rely on personal information and were only marginally affected by social information. By contrast, they prioritized social over personal information when flower discrimination was difficult and therefore the probability of making errors was higher. In summary, bees are able to use social and personal information to optimize foraging decisions in a flexible way."


David Baracchi, Vera Vasas, Soha Jamshed Iqbal, Sylvain Alem; Foraging bumblebees use social cues more when the task is difficult, Behavioral Ecology, Volume 29, Issue 1, 13 January 2018, Pages 186–192, https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arx143

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Research article: Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning

Research article: Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"Strong relationships exist between social connections and information transmission, where individuals’ network position plays a key role in whether or not they acquire novel information. The relationships between social connections and information acquisition may be bidirectional if learning novel information, in addition to being influenced by it, influences network position. Individuals who acquire information quickly and use it frequently may receive more affiliative behaviours and may thus have a central network position. However, the potential influence of learning on network centrality has not been theoretically or empirically addressed. To bridge this epistemic gap, we investigated whether ring-tailed lemurs’ ( Lemur catta) centrality in affiliation networks changed after they learned how to solve a novel foraging task. Lemurs who had frequently initiated interactions and approached conspecifics before the learning experiment were more likely to observe and learn the task solution. Comparing social networks before and after the learning experiment revealed that the frequently observed lemurs received more affiliative behaviors than they did before—they became more central after the experiment. This change persisted even after the task was removed and was not caused by the observed lemurs initiating more affiliative behaviors. Consequently, quantifying received and initiated interactions separately provides unique insights into the relationships between learning and centrality. While the factors that influence network position are not fully understood, our results suggest that individual differences in learning and becoming successful can play a major role in social centrality, especially when learning from others is advantageous."


Street SE, Morgan TJH, Thornton A, Brown GR, Laland KN, Cross CP. 2018 Human mate-choice copying is domain-general social learning. Scientific Reports 8. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-19770-8 ;

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Research article: Sex differences in the use of social information emerge under conditions of risk

Research article: Sex differences in the use of social information emerge under conditions of risk | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"Social learning provides an effective route to gaining up-to-date information, particularly when information is costly to obtain asocially. Theoretical work predicts that the willingness to switch between using asocial and social sources of information will vary between individuals according to their risk tolerance. We tested the prediction that, where there are sex differences in risk tolerance, altering the variance of the payoffs of using asocial and social information differentially influences the probability of social information use by sex. In a computer-based task that involved building a virtual spaceship, men and women (N = 88) were given the option of using either asocial or social sources of information to improve their performance. When the asocial option was risky (i.e., the participant’s score could markedly increase or decrease) and the social option was safe (i.e., their score could slightly increase or remain the same), women, but not men, were more likely to use the social option than the asocial option. In all other conditions, both women and men preferentially used the asocial option to a similar degree. We therefore found both a sex difference in risk aversion and a sex difference in the preference for social information when relying on asocial information was risky, consistent with the hypothesis that levels of risk-aversion influence the use of social information."


Brand CO, Brown GR, Cross CP. 2018 Sex differences in the use of social information emerge under conditions of risk. PeerJ 6, e4190. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4190

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Research article: Social learning strategies for matters of taste

Research article: Social learning strategies for matters of taste | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"Most choices people make are about ‘matters of taste’, on which there is no universal, objective truth. Nevertheless, people can learn from the experiences of individuals with similar tastes who have already evaluated the available options—a potential harnessed by recommender systems. We mapped recommender system algorithms to models of human judgement and decision-making about ‘matters of fact’ and recast the latter as social learning strategies for matters of taste. Using computer simulations on a large-scale, empirical dataset, we studied how people could leverage the experiences of others to make better decisions. Our simulations showed that experienced individuals can benefit from relying mostly on the opinions of seemingly similar people; by contrast, inexperienced individuals cannot reliably estimate similarity and are better off picking the mainstream option despite differences in taste. Crucially, the level of experience beyond which people should switch to similarity-heavy strategies varies substantially across individuals and depends on how mainstream (or alternative) an individual’s tastes are and the level of dispersion in taste similarity with the other people in the group."


Analytis PP, Barkoczi D, Herzog SM. 2018 Social learning strategies for matters of taste. Nature Human Behaviour 2, 415–424. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0343-2

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Review article: What is cumulative cultural evolution?

Review article: What is cumulative cultural evolution? | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"In recent years, the phenomenon of cumulative cultural evolution (CCE) has become the focus of major research interest in biology, psychology and anthropology. Some researchers argue that CCE is unique to humans and underlies our extraordinary evolutionary success as a species. Others claim to have found CCE in non-human species. Yet others remain sceptical that CCE is even important for explaining human behavioural diversity and complexity. These debates are hampered by multiple and often ambiguous definitions of CCE. Here, we review how researchers define, use and test CCE. We identify a core set of criteria for CCE which are both necessary and sufficient, and may be found in non-human species. We also identify a set of extended criteria that are observed in human CCE but not, to date, in other species. Different socio-cognitive mechanisms may underlie these different criteria. We reinterpret previous theoretical models and observational and experimental studies of both human and non-human species in light of these more fine-grained criteria. Finally, we discuss key issues surrounding information, fitness and cognition. We recommend that researchers are more explicit about what components of CCE they are testing and claiming to demonstrate."


Mesoudi A, Thornton A. 2018 What is cumulative cultural evolution? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 285, 20180712. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.0712

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Research article: Young children fail to generate an additive ratchet effect in an open-ended construction task

Research article: Young children fail to generate an additive ratchet effect in an open-ended construction task | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"The ratchet effect–the gradual accumulation of changes within a cultural trait beyond a level that individuals can achieve on their own–arguably rests on two key cognitive abilities: high-fidelity social learning and innovation. Researchers have started to simulate the ratchet effect in the laboratory to identify its underlying social learning mechanisms, but studies on the developmental origins of the ratchet effect remain sparse. We used the transmission chain method and a tower construction task that had previously been used with adults to investigate whether “generations” of children between 4 and 6 years were able to make a technological product that individual children could not yet achieve. 21 children in a baseline and 80 children in transmission chains (each consisting of 10 successive children) were asked to build something as tall as possible from plasticine and sticks. Children in the chains were presented with the constructions of the two preceding generations (endstate demonstration). Results showed that tower heights did not increase across the chains nor were they different from the height of baseline towers, demonstrating a lack of improvement in tower height. However, we found evidence for cultural lineages, i.e., construction styles: towers within chains were more similar to each other than to towers from different chains. Possible explanations for the findings and directions for future research are suggested."


Reindl E, Tennie C. 2018 Young children fail to generate an additive ratchet effect in an open-ended construction task. PLOS ONE 13, e0197828. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197828

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Paper: Young children copy cumulative technological design in the absence of action information

Paper: Young children copy cumulative technological design in the absence of action information | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

Which social learning mechanisms allow for the generation and transmission of cumulative culture? This study focuses on transmission, investigating whether 4- to 6-year-old children are able to copy cumulative technological design and whether they can do so without action information. Based on an adaptation of the spaghetti tower task – with 2 demonstration conditions: a full demonstration (actions plus (end-)results) and an endstate- demonstration (end-results only – the researchers show that children in both demonstration conditions built taller towers than those in a control group. In both demonstration conditions some children also copied the demonstrated tower. This provides the first evidence that young children learn from, and that some of them even copy, cumulative technological design, and that action information is not always necessary to transmit culture-dependent traits.


Reindl, E., Apperly, I. A., Beck, S. R., & Tennie, C. (2017). Young children copy cumulative technological design in the absence of action information. Scientific Reports, 7.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-01715-2

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Paper: Older, sociable capuchins (Cebus capucinus) invent more social behaviors, but younger monkeys innovate more in other contexts

Paper: Older, sociable capuchins (Cebus capucinus) invent more social behaviors, but younger monkeys innovate more in other contexts | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

Which roles do individual and social learning play in creating recurring phenotypes on which selection can act? Cultural change occurs chiefly through invention of new behavioral variants combined with social transmission of the novel behaviors to new practitioners. Therefore, understanding what makes some individuals more likely to innovate and/or transmit new behaviors is critical for creating realistic models of culture change. This study present findings of a long-term, systematic field study of innovation in wild capuchin monkeys. Older, more social monkeys were more likely to invent new forms of social interaction, whereas younger monkeys were more likely to innovate in other behavioral domains (foraging, investigative, and self-directed behaviors). Sex and rank had little effect on innovative tendencies.


Perry, S. E., Barrett, B. J. & Godoy, I. Older, sociable capuchins (Cebus capucinus) invent more social behaviors, but younger monkeys innovate more in other contexts. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 114, 7806–7813 (2017)

http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1620739114

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Paper: Social resource foraging is guided by the principles of the Marginal Value Theorem

Paper: Social resource foraging is guided by the principles of the Marginal Value Theorem | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it
When animals forage for (non-social) resources they try to maximise their resource collection rate and leave a resource patch once the rate declines, also known as Marginal Value Theorem (MVT). This new study shows that MVT also applies for animals (here, rhesus macaques) "foraging" on social resources, that is, social information. 
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Paper: Manipulation complexity in primates coevolved with brain size and terrestriality

Paper: Manipulation complexity in primates coevolved with brain size and terrestriality | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

Humans occupy by far the most complex foraging niche of all mammals, built around sophisticated technology, and at the same time exhibit unusually large brains. To examine the evolutionary processes underlying these features, we investigated how manipulation complexity is related to brain size, cognitive test performance, terrestriality, and diet quality in a sample of 36 non-human primate species. Manipulation complexity was also consistently positively correlated with brain size and cognitive test performance. Terrestriality had a positive effect on this relationship, but diet quality did not affect it. Unlike a previous study on carnivores, we found that, among primates, brain size and complex manipulations to acquire food underwent correlated evolution, which may have been influenced by terrestriality. Accordingly, our results support the idea of an evolutionary feedback loop between manipulation complexity and cognition in the human lineage, which may have been enhanced by increasingly terrestrial habits.


Heldstab, S. A., Kosonen, Z. K., Koski, S. E., Burkart, J. M., van Schaik, C. P., & Isler, K. (n.d.). Manipulation complexity in primates coevolved with brain size and terrestriality. Scientific Reports, 6, 24528 EP –. doi:10.1038/srep24528

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Paper: The ontogeny of cultural learning

Cumulative cultural evolution is unique to the human species. One basis for cumulative culture is human children's tendency to conform. Another basis for cumulative culture is human adults’ tendency to instruct. Adult instruction and child conformity create ‘objective’ cultural knowledge.

Tomasello, M. The ontogeny of cultural learning. Curr. Opin. Psychol. 8, 1–4 (2016).
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Great overview of recent/important papers on the development of skills for cultural evolution in children: skill of imitative learning and adult teaching.
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Paper: Sequential phenotypic constraints on social information use in wild baboons

Paper: Sequential phenotypic constraints on social information use in wild baboons | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

An individual’s ability to use social information is likely to be dependent on phenotypic constraints operating at three successive steps: acquisition, application, and exploitation. This study examines the sequential process of social information use with experimental food patches in wild baboons (Papio ursinus). The researchers report that:  peripheral individuals were less likely to acquire and apply social information, while subordinate females were less likely to exploit it successfully. Interestingly, the average individual only acquired and exploited social information on <25% and <5% of occasions. This highlights the sequential nature of information use and the fundamental importance of phenotypic constraints on this sequence.


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.13125

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An exciting, new framework on social information use in wild animals, showing that the possession of information alone is not enough. 
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Research article: Analyses of ovarian activity reveal repeated evolution of post-reproductive lifespans in toothed whales

Research article: Analyses of ovarian activity reveal repeated evolution of post-reproductive lifespans in toothed whales | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"In most species the reproductive system ages at the same rate as somatic tissue and individuals continue reproducing until death. However, females of three species – humans, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales – have been shown to display a markedly increased rate of reproductive senescence relative to somatic ageing. In these species, a significant proportion of females live beyond their reproductive lifespan: they have a post-reproductive lifespan. Research into this puzzling life-history strategy is hindered by the difficulties of quantifying the rate of reproductive senescence in wild populations. Here we present a method for measuring the relative rate of reproductive senescence in toothed whales using published physiological data. Of the sixteen species for which data are available (which does not include killer whales), we find that three have a significant post-reproductive lifespan: short-finned pilot whales, beluga whales and narwhals. Phylogenetic reconstruction suggests that female post-reproductive lifespans have evolved several times independently in toothed whales. Our study is the first evidence of a significant post-reproductive lifespan in beluga whales and narwhals which, when taken together with the evidence for post-reproductive lifespan in killer whales, doubles the number of non-human mammals known to exhibit post-reproductive lifespans in the wild."


Ellis, Samuel, et al. "Analyses of ovarian activity reveal repeated evolution of post-reproductive lifespans in toothed whales." Scientific Reports (2018). http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-31047-8

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A good example for selection for longer life-span to share experience (knowledge) through social learning and thus help raising offspring. 
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Research article: The development of human social learning across seven societies

Research article: The development of human social learning across seven societies | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"Social information use is a pivotal characteristic of the human species. Avoiding the cost of individual exploration, social learning confers substantial fitness benefits under a wide variety of environmental conditions, especially when the process is governed by biases toward relative superiority (e.g., experts, the majority). Here, we examine the development of social information use in children aged 4–14 years (n = 605) across seven societies in a standardised social learning task. We measured two key aspects of social information use: general reliance on social information and majority preference. We show that the extent to which children rely on social information depends on children’s cultural background. The extent of children’s majority preference also varies cross-culturally, but in contrast to social information use, the ontogeny of majority preference follows a U-shaped trajectory across all societies. Our results demonstrate both cultural continuity and diversity in the realm of human social learning."


van Leeuwen EJC, Cohen E, Collier-Baker E, Rapold CJ, Schäfer M, Schütte S, Haun DBM. 2018 The development of human social learning across seven societies. Nature Communications 9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04468-2

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Research article: Knowledgeable Lemurs Become More Central in Social Networks

Research article: Knowledgeable Lemurs Become More Central in Social Networks | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"Social network position influences if and when animals learn from conspecifics. Kulahci et al. show that learning influences network position and that bidirectional relationships exist between the two. Lemurs who learn how to solve a novel task, and solve it while being observed by others, receive more affiliation and become central after learning."


Kulahci IG, Ghazanfar AA, Rubenstein DI. 2018 Knowledgeable Lemurs Become More Central in Social Networks. Current Biology 28, 1306-1310.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.02.079

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Research article: Bumblebee social learning can lead to suboptimal foraging choices

Research article: Bumblebee social learning can lead to suboptimal foraging choices | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it
"Bumblebees are influenced by socially acquired information when deciding on which flowers to forage. In some circumstances, however, this attraction towards conspecifics may lead to suboptimal foraging performance because the presence of multiple pollinators typically results in a faster rate of nectar depletion in the flower. We tested the capacity of bees to learn to avoid flowers occupied by conspecifics when they offered a lower reward than unoccupied similar flowers. Bumblebees were able to discriminate between poorly and highly rewarding flowers by using the presence of a nonsocial cue (a wooden rectangular white block). When poorly rewarding flowers were indicated by social cues (model bees), however, bees did not discriminate between the two flower types except when an additional cue was provided (flower colour). These findings indicate that bumblebees attach particular meaning to conspecific presence on flowers, even when this could lead to suboptimal foraging performance. The relatively lower flexibility in the use of social than nonsocial cues suggests a biased positive value of conspecifics as indicators of rewarded flowers."

Avarguès-Weber A, Lachlan R, Chittka L. 2018 Bumblebee social learning can lead to suboptimal foraging choices. Animal Behaviour 135, 209–214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.11.022
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Research paper: Chimpanzees demonstrate individual differences in social information use

Research paper: Chimpanzees demonstrate individual differences in social information use | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"Studies of transmission biases in social learning have greatly informed our understanding of how behaviour patterns may diffuse through animal populations, yet within-species inter-individual variation in social information use has received little attention and remains poorly understood. We have addressed this question by examining individual performances across multiple experiments with the same population of primates. ... According to the model that best fit the data, females were, depending on their rearing history, 15–24% more likely to use social information to solve experimental tasks than males. However, there was no strong evidence of an effect of age or research experience, and pedigree records indicated that SIS was not a strongly heritable trait. Our study offers a novel, transferable method for the study of individual differences in social learning." 


Watson SK et al. 2018 Chimpanzees demonstrate individual differences in social information use. Animal Cognition https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-018-1198-7

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Research article: Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests

Research article: Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"The cumulative development of culture has proven difficult to study in the laboratory. Here, the authors examine entries to a series of large programming contests to show that successful entries are usually ‘tweaks’ of existing solutions, but occasional ‘leaps’ can bring larger benefits."


Miu E, Gulley N, Laland KN, Rendell L. 2018 Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests. Nat Commun 9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04494-0

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Paper: Cumulative cultural learning: Development and diversity

The complexity and variability of human culture is unmatched by any other species. Humans live in culturally constructed niches filled with artifacts, skills, beliefs, and practices that have been inherited, accumulated, and modified over generations. Legare proposes that the psychological adaptations supporting cumulative cultural transmission are universal but are sufficiently flexible to support the acquisition of highly variable behavioral repertoires. The paper describes variation in the transmission practices (teaching) and acquisition strategies (imitation) that support cumulative cultural learning in childhood.


Legare, C. H. Cumulative cultural learning: Development and diversity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 114, 7877–7883 (2017).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1620743114

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Paper: Coevolution of cultural intelligence, extended life history, sociality, and brain size in primates

Paper: Coevolution of cultural intelligence, extended life history, sociality, and brain size in primates | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

This study evaluates the hypothesis that the enhanced reliance on socially transmitted behavior observed in some primates has coevolved with enlarged brains, complex sociality, and extended lifespans. Results confirm relationships of absolute and relative brain volume with longevity (both juvenile period and reproductive lifespan) and social group size, although longevity is generally the stronger predictor. Relationships between social learning, brain volume, and longevity remain when controlling for maternal investment and are therefore not simply explained as a by-product of the generally slower life history expected for larger brained species.The findings suggest that both brain expansion and high reliance on culturally transmitted behavior coevolved with sociality and extended lifespan in primates.


Street, S. E., Navarrete, A. F., Reader, S. M. & Laland, K. N. Coevolution of cultural intelligence, extended life history, sociality, and brain size in primates. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 114, 7908–7914 (2017)

http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1620734114

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Paper: Pursuing Darwin’s curious parallel: Prospects for a science of cultural evolution

Paper: Pursuing Darwin’s curious parallel: Prospects for a science of cultural evolution | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

In the recent past researchers pursued the curious parallel noted by Darwin between the genetic evolution of species and the cultural evolution of beliefs, skills, knowledge, languages, institutions, and other forms of socially transmitted information. Here, Mesoudi reviews current progress in the pursuit of an evolutionary science of culture that is grounded in both biological and evolutionary theory, but also treats culture as more than a proximate mechanism that is directly controlled by genes. He also highlights the interdisciplinary challenges of studying cultural evolution, including its relation to the traditional social sciences and humanities.


Mesoudi, A. Pursuing Darwin’s curious parallel: Prospects for a science of cultural evolution. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 114, 7853–7860 (2017)

http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1620741114

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Paper: Social learning solves the problem of narrow-peaked search landscapes: experimental evidence in humans

Paper: Social learning solves the problem of narrow-peaked search landscapes: experimental evidence in humans | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it

"The extensive use of social learning is considered a major reason for the ecological success of humans. Theoretical considerations, models and experiments have explored the evolutionary basis of social learning, showing the conditions under which learning from others is more adaptive than individual learning. Here we present an extension of a previous experimental set-up, in which individuals go on simulated ‘hunts’ and their success depends on the features of a ‘virtual arrowhead’ they design. Individuals can modify their arrowhead either by individual trial and error or by copying others. We study how, in a multimodal adaptive landscape, the smoothness of the peaks influences learning. We compare narrow peaks, in which solutions close to optima do not provide useful feedback to individuals, to wide peaks, where smooth landscapes allow an effective hill-climbing individual learning strategy. We show that individual learning is more difficult in narrow-peaked landscapes, but that social learners perform almost equally well in both narrow- and wide-peaked search spaces. There was a weak trend for more copying in the narrow than wide condition, although as in previous experiments social information was generally underutilized. Our results highlight the importance of tasks’ design space when studying the adaptiveness of high-fidelity social learning."


Acerbi A, Tennie C, Mesoudi A. 2016 Social learning solves the problem of narrow-peaked search landscapes: experimental evidence in humans. R. Soc. open sci. 3: 160215. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160215 ;

 

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Paper: Population size does not explain past changes in cultural complexity

How important is demography for changes in cultural complexity? Is a sudden loss of complexity a result of a decline in population size?. Such explanations are commonly justified in relation to population dynamic models developed by Henrich and Powell et al., which appear to demonstrate that population size is the crucial determinant of cultural complexity. In the present paper the authors argue that these models fail in two important respects. First, they only support a relationship between demography and culture in implausible conditions. Second, their predictions conflict with the available archaeological and ethnographic evidence. Therefore, they conclude that new theoretical and empirical research is required to identify the factors that drove the changes in cultural complexity that are documented by the archaeological record.

Vaesen, K., Collard, M., Cosgrove, R. & Roebroeks, W. Population size does not explain past changes in cultural complexity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 201520288 (2016). doi:10.1073/pnas.1520288113
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Paper: Imitation: Not in Our Genes

Paper: Imitation: Not in Our Genes | ESLR Papers and Conferences on Social Learning and Culture | Scoop.it
A powerful longitudinal study has failed to find any evidence that newborn babies can imitate facial gestures, hand movements or vocalisations. After 40 years of uncertainty, these findings indicate that humans learn to imitate; this capacity is not inborn.
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