Paper published on cumulative culture in Royal Society Journal Proceedings B

June 11, 2018

Social Mind Center researchers Helena Miton and Mathieu Charbonneau publish a paper  titled "Cumulative culture in the laboratory: methodological and theoretical challenges" in Proceedings B of the Royal Society

The paper discusses how in the last decade, cultural transmission experiments (transmission chains, replacement, closed groups, and seeded groups) have become important experimental tools in investigating cumulative cultural evolution, the process by which traditions are gradually improved upon over time, leading to solutions that no single individual could have invented on their own. The authors detail several mismatches between theoretical definitions of cumulative culture and their experimental implementation, mainly (1) unbalanced allocation of time between conditions, and (2) complexity of the tasks used. Finally, they introduce a new methodological tool, design spaces, as a way to study variation in such experiments. 

The research reported in the manuscript was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) and ERC grant agreement no. 609819 (SOMICS).