Adaptationism, Culture, and the Malleability of Human Nature

In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind, Volume 3: Foundations and the Future. New York, US: Oxford University Press (2008)
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It is often thought that if an adaptationist explanation of some behavioural phenomenon is true, then this fact shows that a culturist explanation of the very same phenomenon is false, or else the adaptationist explanation preempts or crowds out the culturist explanation in some way. This chapter shows why this so-called competition thesis is misguided. Two evolutionary models are identified — the Information Learning Model and the Strategic Learning Model — which show that adaptationist reasoning can help explain why cultural learning evolved. These models suggest that there will typically be a division of labor between adaptationist and culturist explanations. It is then shown that the Strategic Learning Model, which has been widely neglected by adaptationist thinkers, has important and underappreciated implications for a question that has long been contentious in the behavioural sciences — the question of the malleability of human nature.



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Chandra Sripada
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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References found in this work

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Ann S. Ferebee - 1965 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 35 (1):167.
Natural language and natural selection.Steven Pinker & Paul Bloom - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (4):707-27.

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