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Cultural linkage: the influence of package transmission on cultural dynamics


Yeh, Justin; Fogarty, Laurel; Kandler, Anne (2019), Cultural linkage: the influence of package transmission on cultural dynamics, Dryad, Dataset,


Many cultural traits are not transmitted independently, but together as a package. This can happen because, for example, media may store information together making it more likely to be transmitted together, or through cognitive mechanisms such as causal reasoning. Evolutionary biology suggests that physical linkage of genes (being on the same chromosome) allows neutral and maladaptive genes to spread by hitchhiking on adaptive genes, while the pairwise difference between neutral genes is unaffected. Whether packaging may lead to similar dynamics in cultural evolution is unclear. To understand the effect of cultural packages on cultural evolutionary dynamics, we built an agent-based simulation that allows links to form and break between cultural traits. During transmission, one trait and others that are directly or indirectly connected to it are transmitted together in a package. We compare variation in cultural traits between different rates of link formation and breakage and find that an intermediate frequency of links can lower cultural diversity, which can be misinterpreted as a signature of payoff bias or conformity. Further, cultural hitchhiking can occur when links are common.