Journal of Cognition and Culture 2 (2):87-112 (2002)

Abstract
Formal models of cultural evolution analyze how cognitive processes combine with social interaction to generate the distributions and dynamics of ‘representations.’ Recently, cognitive anthropologists have criticized such models. They make three points: mental representations are non-discrete, cultural transmission is highly inaccurate, and mental representations are not replicated, but rather are ‘reconstructed’ through an inferential process that is strongly affected by cognitive ‘attractors.’ They argue that it follows from these three claims that: 1) models that assume replication or replicators are inappropriate, 2) selective cultural learning cannot account for stable traditions, and 3) selective cultural learning cannot generate cumulative adaptation. Here we use three formal models to show that even if the premises of this critique are correct, the deductions that have been drawn from them are false. In the rst model, we assume continuously varying representations under the in uence of weak selective transmission and strong attractors. We show that if the attractors are suf ciently strong relative to selective forces, the continuous representation model reduces to the standard..
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DOI 10.1163/156853702320281836
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