S-curves in cultural evolution

From: William Benzon (bbenzon@mindspring.com)
Date: Sun 25 Jan 2004 - 14:15:46 GMT

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    If you google the name "Joseph Henrich" you might come up with a web-page where you can get a PDF of the following paper:

    Joseph Henrich, Cultural Transmission & the Diffusion of Innovations Adoption dynamics indicate that biased cultural transmission is the predominate force in behavioral change, American Anthropologist 103(4): 992-1013.


    In challenging the pervasive model of individual actors as cost-benefit analysts who adapt their behavior by learning from the environment, this paper analyzes the temporal dynamics of both environmental (individual) learning and biased cultural transmission processes by comparing these dynamics with the robust ³S-shaped² curves that emerge from the diffusion of innovations research. The analysis shows three things: 1) that environmental learning alone never produces the S-shaped adoption dynamics typically observed in the spread of novel practices, ideas and technologies; 2) that biased cultural transmission always produces the S-shaped temporal dynamics; and 3) that a combination of environmental learning and biased cultural transmission can generate S-dynamics, but only when biased cultural transmission is the predominate force in the spread of new behaviors. These findings suggest that biased cultural transmission processes are much more important to understanding the diffusion of innovations and sociocultural evolution than is often assumed by most theorists.

    William L. Benzon
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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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