Random drift and culture change

In April we chose to read Bentley, Hahn and Shennan’s paper Random drift and culture change (2004).

This very interesting study explains cultural variants on three real-world datasets using a neutral model. The model predicts the random drift effect on the statistics of the variants from the population size and the innovation (mutation) rate or only using the number of new variants per time slice. Because it requires a minimal number of free parameters, the authors propose using this very simple model as a null model, against which hypotheses can be tested to determine whether the variants of a certain trait in population are neutral, which often seems to be the case.

Let us know what you think about this paper and the model it suggests. Do you think you could find it useful for your own research?

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