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What is cultural evolution anyway?

Micheletti, Alberto JC; Brandl, Eva; Mace, Ruth; (2022) What is cultural evolution anyway? Behavioral Ecology , 33 (4) pp. 667-669. 10.1093/beheco/arac011. Green open access

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Abstract

The term cultural evolution has become popular in the evolutionary human sciences, but it is often unclear what is meant by it. This is generating confusion and misconceptions that are hindering progress in the field. These include the claim that behavioral ecology disregards culture. We argue that these misunderstandings are caused by the unhelpful use of term cultural evolution to identify both a phenomenon—culture changing through time—and a theory to explain it—the potential role of cultural transmission biases in driving this change. We illustrate this point by considering recently published influential studies and opinion pieces. If we are to avoid confusion, the term cultural evolution is best reserved to identify the phenomenon of cultural change. This helps clarify that human behavioral ecologists do not disregard culture, but instead have studied its evolution from the very beginning. Different approaches to the study of human behavior can coexist and complement each other in the framework offered by Tinbergen’s four evolutionary questions. Clarifying key terms is crucial to achieve this synthesis.

Type: Article
Title: What is cultural evolution anyway?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arac011
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arac011
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10151167
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