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Philosophical issues around the nature of culture and cultural change spring from many historical sources: the work of German romantic philosophers (especially Herder); 19th century ethnological efforts at taxonomising human diversity, and; anthropological, archaeological and linguistic work on the mechanisms of linguistic and artefactual differentiation. Much of what is now thought of as cultural evolution, however, emerged out of mid-20th century work of cultural anthropologists and archaeologists inspired by diachronic theories of change and stasis from biology, ecology, and Marxism. Philosophical attention around the mid-century tended to focus on issues of methodology in the social sciences and the cogency of the culture concept. Notable here is David Bidney’s (1944) Theoretical Anthropology which focused on ontological issues in contemporary anthropological practice. By and large, then, the focus was on the cultural part of cultural evolution. Philosophical focus on the evolutionary aspect had to wait until the 1970s, with Michael Ruse’s (1974) being a noteworthy early effort. This time period saw a flush of new work in cultural evolution inspired by theories and tools of population genetics, especially that of Richard Dawkins (1976), Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) and Boyd and Richerson (1985). Taking seriously the analogy between biological and cultural change, these works introduced topics that continue to occupy philosophical work on cultural evolution to the present day. These include research on the ontology of culture, the extent to which cultural elements are organized; the proper units of cultural evolution; the aptness of the analogy between biological evolution and cultural change; the nature of cultural evolutionary explanation, and; the evolutionary role of cultural evolution.

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  1. Memes: Myths, Misunderstandings and Misgivings.Daniel C. Dennett - manuscript
    When one says that cultures evolve, this can be taken as a truism, or as asserting one or another controversial, speculative, unconfirmed theory. Consider a cultural inventory at time t: it includes all the languages, practices, ceremonies, edifices, methods, tools, myths, music, art, and so forth, that compose a culture. Over time, the inventory changes. Some items disappear, some multiply, some merge, some change. (When I say some change, I mean to be neutral at this point about whether this amounts (...)
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  2. Power by Association.Travis Lacroix & Cailin O'Connor - manuscript
    We use tools from evolutionary game theory to examine how power might influence the cultural evolution of inequitable norms between discernible groups in a population of otherwise identical individuals. Similar extant models always assume that power is homogeneous across a social group. As such, these models fail to capture situations where individuals who are not themselves disempowered nonetheless end up disadvantaged in bargaining scenarios by dint of their social group membership. Thus, we assume that there is heterogeneity in the groups (...)
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  3. The Cultural Evolution of Written Language and its Effects: A Darwinian Process from Prehistory to the Modern Day.Andy Lock - forthcoming - In P. Smagorinsky (ed.), Handbook of writing: A mosaic of perspectives and views. Psychology Press.
  4. Cultural Evolution.Kenneth Reisman - forthcoming - In Michael Ruse (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 428-435.
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  5. the cultural evolution of institutional religions.Michael Vlerick - forthcoming - Religion, Brain and Behavior.
    In recent work, Atran, Henrich, Norenzayan and colleagues developed an account of religion that reconciles insights from the ‘by-product’ accounts and the adaptive accounts. According to their synthesis, the process of cultural group selection driven by group competition has recruited our proclivity to adopt and spread religious beliefs and engage in religious practices to increase within group solidarity, harmony and cooperation. While their account has much merit, I believe it only tells us half the story of how institutional religions have (...)
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  6. Religion and its Evolution: Signals, Norms and Secret Histories.Carl Brusse & Kim Sterelny (eds.) - 2023 - London ; New York: Taylor & Francis.
    This book examines why individuals and communities invest heavily in their religious life through multi-disciplinary perspectives. It pursues philosophical, psychological, deep time historical and adaptive answers to this question. Religion is a profoundly puzzling phenomenon from an evolutionary perspective. Commitment to religions are typically expensive, and most of the beliefs that motivate them cannot be true (since religious belief systems are inconsistent with one another). Yet some form of religion seems to be universal and resilient in historically known cultures – (...)
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  7. Demographic Cultures and Demographic Skepticism.Andrew Buskell - 2023 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 14 (2):477-496.
    The social sciences often explain behavioral differences by appealing to membership in distinct cultural groups. This work uses the concepts of “cultures” and “cultural groups” like any other demographic category (e.g. “gender”, “socioeconomic status”). I call these joint conceptualizations of “cultures” and “cultural groups” _demographic cultures_. Such demographic cultures have long been subject to scrutiny. Here I isolate and respond to a set of arguments I call _demographic skepticism_. This skeptical position denies that the demographic cultures concept can support metaphysically (...)
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  8. How Gene–Culture Coevolution Can—but Probably Did Not—Track Mind-Independent Moral Truth.Nathan Cofnas - 2023 - Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):414-434.
    I argue that our general disposition to make moral judgments and our core moral intuitions are likely the product of social selection—a kind of gene–culture coevolution driven by the enforcement of collectively agreed-upon rules. Social selection could potentially track mind-independent moral truth by a process that I term realist social selection: our ancestors could have acquired moral knowledge via reason and enforced rules based on that knowledge, thereby creating selection pressures that drove the evolution of our moral psychology. Given anthropological (...)
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  9. The Generalized Selective Environment.Hugh Desmond - 2023 - In Agathe du Creste (ed.), Evolutionary Thinking Across Disciplines: Problems and Perspectives in Generalized Darwinism. Springer. pp. 2147483647-2147483647.
    As the principle of natural selection is generalized to explain (adaptive) patterns of human behavior, it becomes less clear what the selective environment empirically refers to. While the environment and individual are relatively separable in the non-human biological context, they are highly entangled in the context of moral, social, and institutional evolution. This chapter brings attention to the problem of generalizing the selective environment, and argues that it is ontologically disunified and definable only through its explanatory function. What unifies the (...)
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  10. Overlooked Aspects of Cultural Evolution: Information, Maladaptation, and Evolutionary Trends.Alejandro Gordillo García - 2023 - Dissertation, Ku Leuven
    In recent years, there has been a shift in how we study cultural evolution, with scientists taking a more biology-based approach, which is in direct opposition with the work done in the social sciences. This approach is based on the view that culture, including technology, language, beliefs, customs, values, traditions, language, and so on, changes through time analogously to the way that organisms evolve genetically, and that both evolutionary processes interact causally. This scientific program is known as Cultural Evolutionary Theory (...)
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  11. How Culture Made Us Uniquely Human.Joseph Henrich - 2023 - Zygon 58 (2):405-424.
    This article argues that understanding human uniqueness requires recognizing that we are a cultural species whose evolution has been driven by the interaction among genes and culture for over a million years. Here, I review the basic argument, incorporate recent findings, and highlight ongoing efforts to apply this approach to more deeply understand both the universal aspects of our cognition as well as the variation across societies. This article will cover (1) the origins and evolution of our capacities for culture, (...)
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  12. Cognitive Archaeology and the Minimum Necessary Competence Problem.Anton Killin & Ross Pain - 2023 - Biological Theory 18 (4):269-283.
    Cognitive archaeologists attempt to infer the cognitive and cultural features of past hominins and their societies from the material record. This task faces the problem of _minimum necessary competence_: as the most sophisticated thinking of ancient hominins may have been in domains that leave no archaeological signature, it is safest to assume that tool production and use reflects only the lower boundary of cognitive capacities. Cognitive archaeology involves selecting a model from the cognitive sciences and then assessing some aspect of (...)
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  13. How WEIRD is Cognitive Archaeology? Engaging with the Challenge of Cultural Variation and Sample Diversity.Anton Killin & Ross Pain - 2023 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 14 (2):539-563.
    In their landmark 2010 paper, “The weirdest people in the world?”, Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan outlined a serious methodological problem for the psychological and behavioural sciences. Most of the studies produced in the field use people from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies, yet inferences are often drawn to the species as a whole. In drawing such inferences, researchers implicitly assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that WEIRD populations are generally representative of the (...)
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  14. The Interplay of Social Identity and Norm Psychology in the Evolution of Human Groups.Kati Kish Bar-On & Ehud Lamm - 2023 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 378 (20210412).
    People’s attitudes towards social norms play a crucial role in understanding group behavior. Norm psychology accounts focus on processes of norm internalization that influence people’s norm following attitudes but pay considerably less attention to social identity and group identification processes. Social identity theory in contrast studies group identity but works with a relatively thin and instrumental notion of social norms. We argue that to best understand both sets of phenomena, it is important to integrate the insights of both approaches. Social (...)
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  15. Human major transitions from the perspective of distributed adaptations.Ehud Lamm, Meir Finkel & Oren Kolodny - 2023 - Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 378 (1872):11.
    Distributed adaptations are cases in which adaptation is dependent on the population as a whole: the adaptation is conferred by a structural or compositional aspect of the population; the adaptively relevant information cannot be reduced to information possessed by a single individual. Possible examples of human-distributed adaptations are song lines, traditions, trail systems, game drive lanes and systems of water collection and irrigation. Here we discuss the possible role of distributed adaptations in human cultural macro-evolution. Several kinds of human-distributed adaptations (...)
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  16. The Cumulative Quality of Culture Explains Human Uniqueness.Cristine Legare - 2023 - Zygon 58 (2):443-453.
    What explains the unique features of human culture? Culture is not uniquely human, but human culture is uniquely cumulative. Cumulative culture is a product of our collective intelligence and is supported by cognitive processes and learning strategies that enable people to acquire, transform, and transmit information and technologies within and across generations. Technological and social innovations are currently driving unprecedented changes in cultural complexity and diversity. Innovation is a cognitively and socially complex, multistep process that typically requires (cumulative) cultural learning (...)
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  17. Jean Gayon on the “Modes” of Cultural Evolution.Jorge Martínez-Contreras - 2023 - In Pierre-Olivier Méthot (ed.), Philosophy, History and Biology: Essays in Honour of Jean Gayon. Springer Verlag. pp. 167-175.
    Cultural evolution is the theory of evolution by means of natural selectionSelection in the realm of culture. The development of cultural evolution over the last few decades has gained great importance. In this chapter, I analyze Jean Gayon’s critical analysis of what he calls the “modes” of cultural evolution (Gayon, 23:139–150, 2005). These “modes”, for Gayon, are sets of research programs inspired by the same paradigmParadigm; they take for granted the existence of a close relationship between biological and human social (...)
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  18. Does Science Evolve? [REVIEW]Ross Pain - 2023 - Evolution 77 (12):2699–2702.
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  19. Reliability models in cultural phylogenetics.Rafael Ventura - 2023 - Biology and Philosophy 38 (3):1-16.
    Cultural phylogenetics has made remarkable progress by relying on methods originally developed in biology. But biological and cultural evolution do not always proceed according to the same principles. So what, if anything, could justify the use of phylogenetic methods to reconstruct the evolutionary history of culture? In this paper, we describe models used to assess the reliability of inference methods and show how these models play an underappreciated role in addressing that question. The notion of reliability is of course central (...)
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  20. How we got stuck: The origins of hierarchy and inequality. [REVIEW]Jonathan Birch & Andrew Buskell - 2022 - Mind and Language 37 (4):751-759.
    Kim Sterelny's book The Pleistocene social contract provides an exceptionally well-informed and credible narrative explanation of the origins of inequality and hierarchy. In this essay review, we reflect on the role of rational choice theory in Sterelny's project, before turning to Sterelny's reasons for doubting the importance of cultural group selection. In the final section, we compare Sterelny's big picture with an alternative from David Wengrow and David Graeber.
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  21. Grains of Description in Biological and Cultural Transmission.Pierrick Bourrat & Mathieu Charbonneau - 2022 - Journal of Cognition and Culture 22 (3-4):185-202.
    The question of whether cultural transmission is faithful has attracted significant debate over the last 30 years. The degree of fidelity with which an object is transmitted depends on 1) the features chosen to be relevant, and 2) the quantity of details given about those features. Once these choices have been made, an object is described at a particular grain. In the absence of conventions between different researchers and across different fields about which grain to use, transmission fidelity cannot be (...)
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  22. Explaining costly religious practices: credibility enhancing displays and signaling theories.Carl Brusse, Toby Handfield & Kevin J. S. Zollman - 2022 - Synthese 200 (3):1-32.
    This paper examines and contrasts two closely related evolutionary explanations in human behaviour: signalling theory, and the theory of Credibility Enhancing Displays. Both have been proposed to explain costly, dangerous, or otherwise ‘extravagant’ social behaviours, especially in the context of religious belief and practice, and each have spawned significant lines of empirical research. However, the relationship between these two theoretical frameworks is unclear, and research which engages both of them is largely absent. In this paper we seek to address this (...)
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  23. Cumulative culture and complex cultural traditions.Andrew Buskell - 2022 - Mind and Language 37 (3):284-303.
    Cumulative cultural evolution is often claimed to be distinctive of human culture. Such claims are typically supported with examples of complex and historically late-appearing technologies. Yet by taking these as paradigm cases, researchers unhelpfully lump together different ways that culture accumulates. This article has two aims: (a) to distinguish four types of cultural accumulation: adaptiveness, complexity, efficiency, and disparity and (b) to highlight the epistemic implications of taking complex hominin technologies as paradigmatic instances of cumulative culture. Addressing these issues both (...)
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  24. Fidelity, stances, and explaining cultural stability.Andrew Buskell & Mathieu Charbonneau - 2022 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 45:e253.
    The bifocal stance theory posits two stances – the ritual and the instrumental – each a learning strategy with different fidelity outcomes. These differences in turn have long-term consequences for cultural stability. Yet we suggest the key concept of “fidelity” is insufficiently explicated. Pointing to counterexamples and gaps in the theory, we suggest that explicating “fidelity” reveals the stances to be heuristic explanatory strategies: first-pass explanatory glosses of learning and its consequences, not descriptions of the inner machinery of agents.
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  25. A Cultural Species and its Cognitive Phenotypes: Implications for Philosophy.Joseph Henrich, Damián E. Blasi, Cameron M. Curtin, Helen Elizabeth Davis, Ze Hong, Daniel Kelly & Ivan Kroupin - 2022 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 14 (2):349-386.
    After introducing the new field of cultural evolution, we review a growing body of empirical evidence suggesting that culture shapes what people attend to, perceive and remember as well as how they think, feel and reason. Focusing on perception, spatial navigation, mentalizing, thinking styles, reasoning (epistemic norms) and language, we discuss not only important variation in these domains, but emphasize that most researchers (including philosophers) and research participants are psychologically peculiar within a global and historical context. This rising tide of (...)
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  26. Tradition and invention: The bifocal stance theory of cultural evolution.Robert Jagiello, Cecilia Heyes & Harvey Whitehouse - 2022 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 45:e249.
    Cultural evolution depends on both innovation (the creation of new cultural variants by accident or design) and high-fidelity transmission (which preserves our accumulated knowledge and allows the storage of normative conventions). What is required is an overarching theory encompassing both dimensions, specifying the psychological motivations and mechanisms involved. The bifocal stance theory (BST) of cultural evolution proposes that the co-existence of innovative change and stable tradition results from our ability to adopt different motivational stances flexibly during social learning and transmission. (...)
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  27. Culture, genes, selection, and learning: A response to Nichols, Mackey & Moll.Anton Killin & Ross Pain - 2022 - Philosophical Psychology 35 (2):297-300.
  28. Distributed Adaptations: Can a Species Be Adapted While No Single Individual Carries the Adaptation?Ehud Lamm & Oren Kolodny - 2022 - Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10.
    Species’ adaptation to their environments occurs via a range of mechanisms of adaptation. These include genetic adaptations as well as non-traditional inheritance mechanisms such as learned behaviors, niche construction, epigenetics, horizontal gene transfer, and alteration of the composition of a host’s associated microbiome. We propose to supplement these with another modality of eco-evolutionary dynamics: cases in which adaptation to the environment occurs via what may be called a “distributed adaptation,” in which the adaptation is not conferred via something carried by (...)
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  29. Cultural Conventions as Group-Makers.Marc Slors - 2022 - Journal of Cognition and Culture 22 (3-4):203-219.
    In most literature on human cultural evolution and the emergence of large-scale cooperation, the main function of cultural conventions is described as providing group-markers. This paper argues that cultural conventions serve another purpose as well that is at least as important. Large-scale cooperation is characterized by complex division of labour and by a diversity of social roles associated with cultural institutions. This requires ubiquitous ‘role-interaction coordination’ – as it will be labelled. It is argued that without cultural conventions this type (...)
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  30. Extending the Explanatory Scope of Evolutionary Theory: The Origination of Historical Kinds in Biology and Culture.Günter P. Wagner & Gary Tomlinson - 2022 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 14 (1).
    Two welcome extensions of evolutionary thinking have come to prominence over the last thirty years: the so-called ’extended evolutionary synthesis’ (EES) and debate about biological kinds and individuals. These two agendas have, however, remained orthogonal to one another. The EES has mostly restricted itself to widening the explanations of adaptation offered by the preceding ’modern evolutionary synthesis’ by including additional mechanisms of inheritance and variation; while discussion of biological kinds has turned toward philosophical questions of essential vs. contingent properties of (...)
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  31. Clarifying Misconceptions of the Zone of Latent Solutions Hypothesis: A Response to Haidle and Schlaudt: Miriam Noël Haidle and Oliver Schlaudt: Where Does Cumulative Culture Begin? A Plea for a Sociologically Informed Perspective.Elisa Bandini, Jonathan Scott Reeves, William Daniel Snyder & Claudio Tennie - 2021 - Biological Theory 16 (2):76-82.
    The critical examination of current hypotheses is one of the key ways in which scientific fields develop and grow. Therefore, any critique, including Haidle and Schlaudt’s article, “Where Does Cumulative Culture Begin? A Plea for a Sociologically Informed Perspective,” represents a welcome addition to the literature. However, critiques must also be evaluated. In their article, Haidle and Schlaudt review some approaches to culture and cumulative culture in both human and nonhuman primates. H&S discuss the “zone of latent solutions” hypothesis as (...)
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  32. The Cultural Evolution of Cultural Evolution.Jonathan Birch & Cecilia Heyes - 2021 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 376:20200051.
    What makes fast, cumulative cultural evolution work? Where did it come from? Why is it the sole preserve of humans? We set out a self-assembly hypothesis: cultural evolution evolved culturally. We present an evolutionary account that shows this hypothesis to be coherent, plausible, and worthy of further investigation. It has the following steps: (0) in common with other animals, early hominins had significant capacity for social learning; (1) knowledge and skills learned by offspring from their parents began to spread because (...)
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  33. Natural and artefactual languages.Kate Distin - 2021 - American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (1):21-34.
    Natural language provides a mechanism for cultural evolution by ensuring the persistent heredity of variations in both cultural information and information about its own construction. In the process, it not only facilitates but also limits our thinking to the ways its vocabulary and structures make possible. But the human capacity for metarepresentation frees cultural information from the restrictions of any one medium or language, and has also propelled the evolution of artefactual languages, which provide evolutionary mechanisms for specialist areas of (...)
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  34. Imitation and culture: What gives?Cecilia Heyes - 2021 - Mind and Language 38 (1):42-63.
    What is the relationship between imitation and culture? This article charts how definitions of imitation have changed in the last century, distinguishes three senses of “culture” used by contemporary evolutionists (Culture1–Culture3), and summarises current disagreement about the relationship between imitation and culture. The disagreement arises from ambiguities in the distinction between imitation and emulation, and confusion between two explanatory projects—the anthropocentric project and the cultural selection project. I argue that imitation gives cultural evolution an inheritance mechanism for communicative and gestural (...)
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  35. Music Archaeology, Signaling Theory, Social Differentiation.Anton Killin - 2021 - In Sean Allen-Hermanson Anton Killin (ed.), Explorations in Archaeology and Philosophy. Synthese Library (Studies in Epistemology, Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science). Springer Verlag. pp. 85-100.
    Musical flutes constructed from bird bone and mammoth ivory begin to appear in the archaeological record from around 40,000 years ago. Due to the different physical demands of acquiring and working with these source materials in order to produce a flute, researchers have speculated about the significance—aesthetic or otherwise—of the use of mammoth ivory as a raw material for flutes. I argue that biological signaling theory provides a theoretical basis for the proposition that mammoth ivory flute production is a signal (...)
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  36. The Twain Shall Meet: Themes at the Intersection of Archaeology and Philosophy.Anton Killin & Sean Allen-Hermanson - 2021 - In Sean Allen-Hermanson Anton Killin (ed.), Explorations in Archaeology and Philosophy. Synthese Library (Studies in Epistemology, Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science). Springer Verlag. pp. 1-4.
    Explorations in Archaeology and Philosophy grew out of an interdisciplinary conference on the Upper Palaeolithic, “Digging Deeper: Archaeological and Philosophical Perspectives”, held on Miami Beach, Florida, in December 2017. The previous decade had seen increasing numbers of publications on topics of interest to both philosophers and archaeologists, so the time was ripe for a conference which served to generate constructive dialogue between researchers from both disciplines. Themes discussed included art, music, the mind, symbols, mortuary practices, and archaeological methodology. This volume (...)
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  37. Explorations in Archaeology and Philosophy.Anton Killin & Sean Allen-Hermanson (eds.) - 2021 - Springer Verlag.
    This volume explores various themes at the intersection of archaeology and philosophy: inference and theory; interdisciplinary connections; cognition, language and normativity; and ethical issues. Showcasing this heterogeneity, its scope ranges from the method of analogical inference to the evolution of the human mind; from conceptual issues in assessing the health of past populations to the ethics of cultural heritage tourism. It probes the archaeological record for evidence of numeracy, curiosity and creativity, and social complexity. Its contributors comprise an interdisciplinary cluster (...)
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  38. Not by signalling alone: Music's mosaicism undermines the search for a proper function.Anton Killin, Carl Brusse, Adrian Currie & Ronald J. Planer - 2021 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 44.
    Mehr et al. seek to explain music's evolution in terms of a unitary proper function – signalling cooperative intent – which they cash out in two guises, coalition signalling and parental attention signalling. Although we recognize the role signalling almost certainly played in the evolution of music, we reject “ultimate” causal explanations which focus on a unidirectional, narrow range of causal factors.
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  39. Digging the channels of inheritance: On How to Distinguish Between Cultural and Biological Inheritance.Maria Kronfeldner - 2021 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 376.
    Theories of cultural evolution rest on the assumption that cultural inheritance is distinct from biological inheritance. Cultural and biological inheritance are two separate so-called channels of inheritance, two sub-systems of the sum total of developmental resources traveling in distinct ways between individual agents. This paper asks: what justifies this assumption? In reply, a philosophical account is offered that points at three related but distinct criteria that (taken together) make the distinction between cultural and biological inheritance not only precise but also (...)
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  40. Evolution in Nature and Culture.Gerhard Schurz - 2021 - American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (1):95-110.
    The goal of this paper is to defend the theory of generalized evolution (GE) against criticisms by laying down its theoretical principles and their applications in a unified way. Section 2 develops GE theory and its realization in biological evolution (BE) and cultural evolution (CE). The core of GE theory consists of the three Darwinian principles together with the models of population dynamics (PD). Section 3 reconstructs the most important differences between BE and CE. While BE is predominantly based on (...)
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  41. Cultural evolution of genetic heritability.Ryutaro Uchiyama, Rachel Spicer & Michael Muthukrishna - 2021 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 45:e152.
    Behavioral genetics and cultural evolution have both revolutionized our understanding of human behavior – largely independent of each other. Here, we reconcile these two fields under a dual inheritance framework, offering a more nuanced understanding of the interaction between genes and culture. Going beyond typical analyses of gene–environment interactions, we describe the cultural dynamics that shape these interactions by shaping the environment and population structure. A cultural evolutionary approach can explain, for example, how factors such as rates of innovation and (...)
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  42. The Role of Culture and Evolution for Human Cognition.Andrea Bender - 2020 - Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (4):1403-1420.
    Since the emergence of our species at least, natural selection based on genetic variation has been replaced by culture as the major driving force in human evolution. It has made us what we are today, by ratcheting up cultural innovations, promoting new cognitive skills, rewiring brain networks, and even shifting gene distributions. Adopting an evolutionary perspective can therefore be highly informative for cognitive science in several ways: It encourages us to ask grand questions about the origins and ramifications of our (...)
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  43. Evolution, Cultural Evolution, and Epistemic Optimism: Alberto Acerbi. Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 272pp. ISBN: 9780198835943. Hugo Mercier. Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 384pp. ISBN: 9780691178707. [REVIEW]Andrew Buskell - 2020 - Acta Biotheoretica 69 (2):173-183.
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  44. Cognitive novelties, informational form, and structural-causal explanations.Andrew Buskell - 2020 - Synthese 198 (9):8533-8553.
    Recent work has established a framework for explaining the origin of cognitive novelties—qualitatively distinct cognitive traits—in human beings. This niche construction approach argues that humans engineer epistemic environments in ways that facilitate the ontogenetic and phylogenetic development of such novelties. I here argue that attention to the organized relations between content-carrying informational vehicles, or informational form, is key to a valuable explanatory strategy within this project, what I call structural-causal explanations. Drawing on recent work from Cecilia Heyes, and developing a (...)
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  45. Alan C. Love & William C. Wimsatt (eds.), Beyond the Meme: Development and Structure in Cultural Evolution, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 22, Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2019, xxxii + 510 pp. [REVIEW]Mathieu Charbonneau - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (4):1-4.
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  46. Taking into account the wider evolutionary context of cumulative cultural evolution.Nicolas Claidière - 2020 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 43.
    The target article reviews evidence showing that technological reasoning is crucial to cumulative technological culture but it fails to discuss the implications for the emergence of cumulative cultural evolution in general. The target article supports the social view of CCE against the more ecological alternative and suggests that CCE appears when specialised individual-learning mechanisms evolve.
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  47. Using Models to Predict Cultural Evolution From Emotional Selection Mechanisms.Kimmo Eriksson & Pontus Strimling - 2020 - Emotion Review 12 (2):79-92.
    Cultural variants may spread by being more appealing, more memorable, or less offensive than other cultural variants. Empirical studies suggest that such “emotional selection” is a force to be reckoned with in cultural evolution. We present a research paradigm that is suitable for the study of emotional selection. It guides empirical research by directing attention to the circumstances under which emotions influence the likelihood that an individual will influence another individual to acquire a cultural variant. We present a modeling framework (...)
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  48. Modeling a Cognitive Transition at the Origin of Cultural Evolution Using Autocatalytic Networks.Liane Gabora & Mike Steel - 2020 - Cognitive Science 44 (9):e12878.
    Autocatalytic networks have been used to model the emergence of self‐organizing structure capable of sustaining life and undergoing biological evolution. Here, we model the emergence of cognitive structure capable of undergoing cultural evolution. Mental representations (MRs) of knowledge and experiences play the role of catalytic molecules, and interactions among them (e.g., the forging of new associations) play the role of reactions and result in representational redescription. The approach tags MRs with their source, that is, whether they were acquired through social (...)
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  49. The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve by Steve Stewart-Williams. [REVIEW]Ivan Gonzalez-Cabrera - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 95:150.
    What explains the distinctive features of human behavior? In this book, Stewart-Williams aims to answer this ambitious question. This book is an engaging addition to the already long list of recent attempts to provide an evolutionary explanation of human uniqueness. It is organized into six chapters, plus two appendices. These chapters address several key topics in evolutionary theory, sex differences and sexual behavior, altruism, and cultural evolution, albeit with varying degrees of detail and depth. These topics include sexual selection, kin (...)
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  50. Cecilia Heyes, Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018, ix + 292 pp., $31.50/£25.95/€28.50. [REVIEW]Ivan Gonzalez-Cabrera - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (2):1-5.
    Heyes’ book is an essential addition to the literature on human uniqueness. Her main claim is that the key human cognitive capacities are products of cultural rather than genetic evolution. Among these distinctively human capacities are causal understanding, episodic memory, imitation, mindreading, and normative thinking. According to Heyes, they emerged not by genetic mutation but by innovations in cognitive development. She calls these mechanisms ‘cognitive gadgets.’ This is perhaps one of the best and most comprehensive views of human cognitive evolution (...)
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