The origin of culture: Selective conditions for horizontal information transfer

Miguel Gonzalez, Richard A. Watson, Jason Noble, Seth Bullock

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Culture is a central component in the study of numerous disciplines in social science and biology. Nevertheless, a consensus on what it is and how we can represent it in a meaningful and useful way has been hard to reach, especially due to the multifaceted aspects of its nature. In this work we dissect culture into its most basic components and propose horizontal information transfer as the most crucial aspect of it. We discuss the two fundamental processes that are required for culture to emerge in an evolutionary context, namely: increased mutation rates and survival selection. To show how each of these components affect the emergence of culture, a genetic algorithm was explored for a range of conditions. Here, we formalize when and how a population is said to move from biological to cultural evolution and why such a transition radically changes its evolutionary dynamics. Our results suggest that horizontal transfer of information in cultural systems requires the evolution of survival enhancing traits rather reproduction enhancing ones. We consider this requirement to be key for the evolution of rich cultural systems, like the one present in humans.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationArtificial Life XIV: Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems
EditorsHod Lipson, Hiroki Sayama, John Rieffel, Sebastian Risi, Rene Doursat
PublisherMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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