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The Role of Social Reinforcement in Norm Transmission and Cultural Evolution

Cadenas, Haggeo (2023) The Role of Social Reinforcement in Norm Transmission and Cultural Evolution. [Preprint]

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Work on cultural evolution, especially that of Boyd, Richerson, and Henrich, has said little about the role of reinforcement in cultural learning. This is surprising, for reinforcement is an old system, it is found across a diverse array of organisms, and it is a successful concept in various scientific disciplines. The main claim of this paper is that social forms of reinforcement play a role in cultural evolution. More specifically, I argue that starting early in human history, social approval and disapproval of behavior function as reinforcers and punishers; approval and disapproval thereby start a process whereby norms are transmitted. After giving arguments for these claims, I discuss work on social learning strategies—cultural rules specifying who to learn from and how to learn from them (Heyes, 2016). I suggest that the account I develop here can help explain the connection between these learning rules and cultural evolution. I illustrate this point with recent work on divination practices (Hong & Henrich, 2021). My account proposes that forms of social reinforcement can explain the spread and persistence of divination practices. Besides addressing the central question (a role for reinforcement in cultural evolution), my account indirectly touches on developing themes in cultural evolution, namely, normative psychology (Heyes, 2023; Birch, 2021).

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Item Type: Preprint
Cadenas, Haggeohcadenas@ucsd.edu0000-0001-9899-1962
Additional Information: forthcoming in Biology & Philosophy
Keywords: cultural evolution, reinforcement, approval, norms, cultural evolutionary psychology, social reinforcement, norm psychology
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Depositing User: Haggeo Cadenas
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2023 01:34
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2023 01:34
Item ID: 22681
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s10539-023-09934-w
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Date: November 2023

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