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Endless forms: human behavioural diversity and evolved universals

Human populations have extraordinary capabilities for generating behavioural diversity without corresponding genetic diversity or change. These capabilities and their consequences can be grouped into three categories: strategic (or cognitive), ecological and cultural-evolutionary. Strategic aspects... Full description

Journal Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 2011, Vol.366(1563), pp.325-332
Main Author: Smith, Eric Alden
Format: Electronic Article Electronic Article
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ID: ISSN: 0962-8436 ; E-ISSN: 1471-2970 ; DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0233
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recordid: royal_society_publishing10.1098/rstb.2010.0233
title: Endless forms: human behavioural diversity and evolved universals
format: Article
creator:
  • Smith, Eric Alden
subjects:
  • Articles
ispartof: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 2011, Vol.366(1563), pp.325-332
description: Human populations have extraordinary capabilities for generating behavioural diversity without corresponding genetic diversity or change. These capabilities and their consequences can be grouped into three categories: strategic (or cognitive), ecological and cultural-evolutionary. Strategic aspects include: (i) a propensity to employ complex conditional strategies, some certainly genetically evolved but others owing to directed invention or to cultural evolution; (ii) situations in which fitness payoffs (or utilities) are frequency-dependent, so that there is no one best strategy; and (iii) the prevalence of multiple equilibria, with history or minor variations in starting conditions (path dependence) playing a crucial role. Ecological aspects refer to the fact that social behaviour and cultural institutions evolve in diverse niches, producing various adaptive radiations and local adaptations. Although environmental change can drive behavioural change, in humans, it is common for behavioural change (especially technological innovation) to drive environmental change (i.e. niche construction). Evolutionary aspects refer to the fact that human capacities for innovation and cultural transmission lead to diversification and cumulative cultural evolution; critical here is institutional design, in which relatively small shifts in incentive structure can produce very different aggregate outcomes. In effect, institutional design can reshape strategic games, bringing us full circle.
language:
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identifier: ISSN: 0962-8436 ; E-ISSN: 1471-2970 ; DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0233
fulltext: fulltext
issn:
  • 0962-8436
  • 09628436
  • 1471-2970
  • 14712970
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abstractHuman populations have extraordinary capabilities for generating behavioural diversity without corresponding genetic diversity or change. These capabilities and their consequences can be grouped into three categories: strategic (or cognitive), ecological and cultural-evolutionary. Strategic aspects include: (i) a propensity to employ complex conditional strategies, some certainly genetically evolved but others owing to directed invention or to cultural evolution; (ii) situations in which fitness payoffs (or utilities) are frequency-dependent, so that there is no one best strategy; and (iii) the prevalence of multiple equilibria, with history or minor variations in starting conditions (path dependence) playing a crucial role. Ecological aspects refer to the fact that social behaviour and cultural institutions evolve in diverse niches, producing various adaptive radiations and local adaptations. Although environmental change can drive behavioural change, in humans, it is common for behavioural change (especially technological innovation) to drive environmental change (i.e. niche construction). Evolutionary aspects refer to the fact that human capacities for innovation and cultural transmission lead to diversification and cumulative cultural evolution; critical here is institutional design, in which relatively small shifts in incentive structure can produce very different aggregate outcomes. In effect, institutional design can reshape strategic games, bringing us full circle.
pubThe Royal Society
doi10.1098/rstb.2010.0233
date2011-02-12