Project Details

Factors Limiting the Evolution of Cultural Evolution

Joanna J. Bryson, 2007 - 2009, Hans Przibram

I plan to examine the hypothesis that cultural learning is rare not because the mechanisms of learning required for an individual learner are difficult to evolve in themselves, but because of the impact on the ecological and social system supporting learners. While cultural evolution has the potential to be a powerful means to search for new and more optimal behavior, where cultural evolution exists, it must co-evolve with a set of constraints that damp its effects on the society and its ecosystem. Many of these constraints are set as a part of development.

I propose to explore this hypothesis by extending my current models of the evolution of communication, of primate social behavior, and of individual learning. The idea of this research is to model existing learning and development in primate species other than humans, such as orangutans (van Schaik et al., 2003) and capuchins (Perry et al., 2003). By looking at the range of behaviors that are theoretically possible and examining where within this range modern non-human primates exist, we can learn about the evolved mechanisms for controlling cultural evolution. This work could ultimately have substantial impact on our understanding of human culture and development.