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The Experimental Study of Cultural Transmission: A Pilot Study on When and Who People Copy
Final rept. 1 Oct 2010-29 Mar 2012
SAINT ANDREWS UNIV (UNITED KINGDOM) CENTRE FOR SOCIAL LEARNING AND COGNITIVE EVOLUTION SCHOOL OF BIOLOGY
Pagination or Media Count:
Culture influences behavior, and the way cultures change over time profoundly affects the way peoples behavior changes. Cultural evolution -- the change in the content of a given culture over time -- is based on individual choices, whether it is what music people choose to listen to, whether people choose to adopt the latest technology or whether they absorb the tenets of violent fundamentalism. Unfortunately, scientists chronically lack evidence on how human psychological biases affect cultural evolution. In this research we have attempted to address this problem by experimentally probing the conditions under which people are more likely to turn to social information over their own existing knowledge or beliefs, and when they do, which kind of individuals are more likely to be chosen as information sources. Given the huge impact even a single, fanatically motivated individual can have in the era of modern terrorism, understanding the factors that lead individuals to be influenced toward and away from certain behavior patterns is essential strategic knowledge in any effort to reduce the influence of violent fundamentalism. This research provides an opportunity to begin creating essential foundational knowledge for the understanding of cultural change built by the choices of many individuals.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE