State-dependent cognition and its relevance to cultural evolution

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8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Individuals cope with their worlds by using information. In humans in particular, an important potential source of information is cultural tradition. Evolutionary models have examined when it is advantageous to use cultural information, and psychological studies have examined the cognitive biases and priorities that may transform cultural traditions over time. However, these studies have not generally incorporated the idea that individuals vary in state. I argue that variation in state is likely to influence the relative payoffs of using cultural information versus gathering personal information; and also that people in different states will have different cognitive biases and priorities, leading them to transform cultural information in different ways. I explore hunger as one example of state variable likely to have consequences for cultural evolution. Variation in state has the potential to explain why cultural traditions and dynamics are so variable between individuals and populations. It offers evolutionarily-grounded links between the ecology in which individuals live, individual-level cognitive processes, and patterns of culture. However, incorporating heterogeneity of state also makes the modelling of cultural evolution more complex, particularly if the distribution of states is itself influenced by the distribution of cultural beliefs and practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-107
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Processes
Volume161
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

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