Cultural ratcheting results primarily from semantic compression


Bryson, J. J., 2010. Cultural ratcheting results primarily from semantic compression. In: The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG 8). World Scientific, pp. 50-57.

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Humans acquire far more of their behaviour from conspecifics via culture than any other species. Our culture is larger because it accumulates, where other species' seem to stay approximately the same size (Tomasello, 1999). This chapter attempts to clarify the problem of cultural accumulation by distinguishing between the site of a culture that can be transmitted from one generation, and the extent of culture transmitted. A culture's size is determined largely by ecological constraints, and certainly homonins (and some other species) show adaptations to facilitate this. But the exponential accumulation hypothesised by (Tomasello, 1999) I claim cannot be accounted for this way, but rather is a consequence of increasing information value in semantic components. This process can be achieved through memetics semantics will be selected for which transmits the most information. Thus cultural evolution achieves compression of information, generating increased extent in culture even when maintaining a fixed size. I support my argument with evidence from simulations explaining the size of culture (Cace and Bryson, 2007), and simulations demonstrating selection for increased extent Kirby (1999).


Item Type Book Sections
CreatorsBryson, J. J.
DepartmentsFaculty of Science > Computer Science
Research CentresCentre for Mathematical Biology
ID Code19343
Additional Information8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG 8). 14-17 April 2010. Utrecht, Netherlands.


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