Daniel Nettle on cultural variation as an evolved characteristic

In the JRAI (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute) Volume 15 Issue 2 (June 2009), an interesting article by Daniel Nettle entitled: "Beyond nature versus culture: cultural variation as an evolved characteristic"

Abstract: There is a perceived dichotomy between evolutionary explanations for behaviour and social or cultural ones. In this essay, I attempt to dissolve this dichotomy by pointing out that organisms are susceptible to social or cultural influence because they have evolved mechanisms that make them so. I review two classes of evolutionary explanation for cultural variation, 'evoked' and 'transmitted' culture, and argue that these two classes of mechanism enrich and strengthen existing social science accounts, as well as making new predictions. I suggest a high degree of mutual compatibility and potential gains from trade between the social and biological sciences.

The article is followed by comments by W.G. Runciman, Robin Dunbar and Robert Layton. The article and the comments are freely available here.




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