This research seeks to contribute to understanding the origins of cultural diversity within and between human social groups. The researchers will develop an agent-based simulation model to capture demographic and cultural dynamics that affect the process of cultural evolution. The model will be used to perform an exploratory analysis of the varied and interacting effects of demographic and cultural factors on cultural diversity. The focus of the analysis will be on whether different pathways for the transmission of information between individuals (such as from parents to children or from peer to peer) result in different patterns of diversity.
The aim of the analysis is two-fold: first, to generate general theoretical insights about the roles of the different pathways of cultural transmission in shaping cultural diversity; second, to establish whether and under what conditions different pathways of transmission between individuals can be distinguished on the basis of data on the patterns of diversity across groups. The rationale is that if underlying processes cannot be accurately inferred from simulated data generated experimentally it is unlikely that they can be accurately inferred from empirical data.
Findings from the project will contribute to social science theory by addressing a fundamental theoretical question in the study of cultural evolution: the degree to which population-level patterns of cultural diversity can be reliably linked to individual-level processes of cultural transmission.The award is an Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) because the scale of the proposed modeling and analytical efforts are unprecedented in this area. One undergraduate student will assist with the analytical effort, thereby receiving training in the application of theoretical approaches to anthropological research.