Cultural selection drives the evolution of human communication systems

Tamariz, M., Ellison, T. M., Barr, D. J., and Fay, N. (2014) Cultural selection drives the evolution of human communication systems. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, 281(1788), p. 20140488. (doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0488)

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Abstract

Human communication systems evolve culturally, but the evolutionary mechanisms that drive this evolution are not well understood. Against a baseline that communication variants spread in a population following neutral evolutionary dynamics (also known as drift models), we tested the role of two cultural selection models: coordination- and content-biased. We constructed a parametrized mixed probabilistic model of the spread of communicative variants in four 8-person laboratory micro-societies engaged in a simple communication game. We found that selectionist models, working in combination, explain the majority of the empirical data. The best-fitting parameter setting includes an egocentric bias and a content bias, suggesting that participants retained their own previously used communicative variants unless they encountered a superior (content-biased) variant, in which case it was adopted. This novel pattern of results suggests that (i) a theory of the cultural evolution of human communication systems must integrate selectionist models and (ii) human communication systems are functionally adaptive complex systems.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fay, Dr Nicolas and Barr, Dr Dale
Authors: Tamariz, M., Ellison, T. M., Barr, D. J., and Fay, N.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:0962-8452
ISSN (Online):1471-2954
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Royal Society
First Published:First published in Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B: Biological Sciences 281(1788):20140488
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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