What Will We Learn? A Mathematical Treatise of Cultural Evolution

Detta är en avhandling från Akademin för utbildning, kultur och kommunikation

Sammanfattning: In this thesis we apply mathematics and formal modeling to study culture from an evolutionary standpoint. Cultural evolution theory is based on the belief that we can increase our understanding of human behavior by studying how culture is created and spread. Together with my co-authors I use mathematical modeling to investigate why we need a theory for cultural evolution, what it can tell us, and how we can test such a theory.The thesis consists of an introduction and five papers. The first paper is an empirical test of whether we need to know the history of a population to be able to determine what culture they will have. The second paper looks at the circumstances under which a genetic predisposition for imitating parents could evolve. The third paper looks at the accumulation of neutral traits, that is, cultural variants that flow between people at random without affecting their fitness; neutrality provides an important null hypothesis to other explanations of why we have the culture that we do. The fourth paper makes an attempt at defining what makes a cultural variant successful, and thereby reveals some important differences between genetic and cultural evolution. Finally, the fifth paper investigates a model that can be used to study mechanisms of cultural evolution in laboratory experiments.