Why does culture increase human adaptability?

Robert Boyd, Peter J. Richerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

209 Scopus citations

Abstract

It is often argued that culture is adaptive because it allows people to acquire useful information without costly learning. In a recent paper Rogers (1989) analyzed a simple mathematical model that showed that this argument is wrong. Here we show that Rogers' result is robust. As long as the only benefit of social learning is that imitators avoid learning costs, social learning does not increase average fitness. However, we also show that social learning can be adaptive if it makes individual learning more accurate or less costly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-143
Number of pages19
JournalEthology and Sociobiology
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1995
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Culture
  • Social learning
  • Sociobiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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