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The Spatial Scale of Social Learning Affects Cultural Diversity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

L. S. Premo
Affiliation:
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany (luke.premo@eva.mpg.de)
Jonathan B. Scholnick
Affiliation:
School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA (scholnic@email.arizona.edu)
Corresponding

Abstract

Sewall Wright's (1943) concept of isolation by distance is as germane to cultural transmission as genetic transmission. Yet there has been little research on how the spatial scale of social learning—the geographic extent of cultural transmission—affects cultural diversity. Here, we employ agent-based simulation to study how the spatial scale of unbiased social learning affects selectively neutral cultural diversity over a range of population sizes and densities. We show that highly localized unbiased cultural transmission may be easily confused with a form of biased cultural transmission, especially in low-density populations. Our results have important implications for how archaeologists infer mechanisms of cultural transmission from diversity estimates that depart from the expectations of neutral theory.

Resumen

Resumen

El concepto de Sewall Wright de aislamiento por distancia es relevante tanto en la transmisión cultural, como en la transmisión genética. Sin embargo, ha habido poca investigación sobre cómo la escala espacial de aprendizaje social—la extensión geográfica de la transmisión cultural—afecta a la diversidad cultural. Aquí, utilizamos simulaciones basadas en agentes ) para estudiar cómo la escala de aprendizaje social no sesgada, afecta la diversidad cultural no adaptativa bajo un rango de tamaños y densidades de poblaciones. Mostramos que la transmisión cultural no sesgada altamente localizada puede ser fácilmente confundida con una forma de transmisión cultural parcial, especialmente en poblaciones de baja densidad. Nuestros resultados tienen importantes implicaciones para la forma en que los arqueólogos infieren mecanismos de transmisión cultural, a partir de estimaciones de diversidad que se alejan de las expectativas de la teoría neutral.

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Reports
Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2011

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