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Cultural Evolution

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Film Clip: Guns, Germs, and Steel Mechanisms of cultural variation What can psychologists contribute? How do ideas catch on? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Cultural Evolution


1
Cultural Evolution
  • Psychology 448C
  • 10.1.08

2
Agenda
  • Lecture and film clip
  • In-class exercise
  • Discussion

3
Where does cultural variation come from?
  • Ecological and geographic variation (Diamond,
    1997)
  • Different kinds of food are afforded by varying
    ecologies

4
Film Clip Guns, Germs, and Steel
5
Mechanisms of cultural variation
  • Transmitted culture (Buss)
  • People bring their ideas with them, spreading
    past initial set of geographic conditions
  • Evoked culture (Tooby Cosmides, 1992)
  • Situations trigger innate behaviors
  • Ex Selecting attractive mates is most common in
    parasite-prevalent environments

6
What can psychologists contribute?
  • Historians study causal influences over long
    periods of time and often indirect relations
    between events
  • Psychologists study causal influences that are
    more immediate, reflecting an individuals
    behavior

7
How do ideas catch on?
  • Ideas usually need to be communicated in order to
    spread. They spread within social networks, so
    some ideas vary across groups.
  • Dynamic Social Impact Theory
  • The frequency of interpersonal interaction
    influences the transmission of ideas.

8
Example
  • Do students attitudes cluster as a result of
    living in dormitories?
  • Randomized hall assignment
  • Measured attitudes at 2 weeks and 13 weeks

9
Increase in Clustering of Attitudes
  • All attitudes showed an increase in clustering
    over the term.
  • especially for the attitudes rated as more
    important - these attitudes were discussed more.
  • New subcultures were formed on the basis of the
    ideas that people regularly communicated.

10
How do Ideas Catch On?
  • Ideas usually need to be communicated in order to
    spread. They spread within social networks, so
    some ideas vary across groups.
  • Ideas that convey useful information are spread
    (e.g., razors in Halloween candy).

11
How do Ideas Catch On?
  • Ideas usually need to be communicated in order to
    spread. They spread within social networks, so
    some ideas vary across groups.
  • Ideas that convey useful information are spread.
  • Emotional ideas spread.

12
Did you hear the one about
  • Emotional intensity of a story predicts whether
    people will relay it to others (Heath et al.,
    2001).
  • Mild disgust Before he drank his soda he saw
    that there was a dead rat inside.
  • Moderate disgust About halfway through he saw
    that there was a dead rat inside.
  • Strong disgust He swallowed something lumpy and
    saw that there was a dead rat inside.

13
Likelihood of Passing Story Along
  • Participants were more likely to pass along
    stories that elicited strong emotions.

14
How do Ideas Catch On?
  • Ideas usually need to be communicated in order to
    spread. They spread within social networks, so
    some ideas vary across groups.
  • Ideas that convey useful information are spread.
  • Emotional ideas spread.
  • Minimally counterintuitive ideas spread.

15
Example
  • Participants received a list of 18 intuitive and
    counterintuitive items to read (Norenzayan et
    al., 2006).
  • Ps were randomly assigned to 4 conditions
  • Entirely Intuitive (100 intuitive)
  • Minimally Counterintuitive (72 intuitive)
  • Equal Frequencies (50 intuitive)
  • Maximally Counterintuitive (28 intuitive)

16
Sample Items
17
Three minutes after reading the items,
participants were asked to recall them.
18
One week later, participants were again asked to
recall the items.
19
Minimally counterintuitive ideas
  • Over time, narratives that include a few, but not
    too many, counterintuitive items are recalled
    better.
  • This is true of most religions, myths, and
    successful folk tales.

20
Some of Grimms Folk Tales
21
Cultures change
  • Americans today behave differently than they did
    during World War II (Putnam, 2000)

22
People are Participating Less in Civic Affairs
23
People are Attending Church Less
24
People are Entertaining Less at Home
25
Families Eat Together Less Often
26
People are Socializing Less
27
People are Becoming Less Trusting
28
People are Becoming Less Law-Abiding
29
Some Causes
  • Increased time pressures from families with dual
    incomes
  • Suburban lifestyles
  • Electronic entertainment
  • Living through WW2

30
Cultures persist
  • Early conditions have disproportionate influence
    on cultural evolution
  • Quakers in Philly versus Puritans in Boston
  • Cultural adaptations are constrained by
    previously existing structures
  • Bat wings evolved from arms
  • Baseball in Japan

31
Cultural Psychology Studies
  • Most of the studies in cultural psychology
    reflect the persistence of culture
  • Cultural change is more often pursued by
    sociologists, political scientists, and economists
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