The role of redundant information in cultural transmission and cultural stabilization

Alberto Acerbi, Claudio Tennie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Redundant copying has been proposed as a manner to achieve the high-fidelity necessary to pass on and preserve complex traits in human cultural transmission. There are at least two ways to define redundant copying. One refers to the possibility of copying repeatedly the same trait over time, and another to the ability to exploit multiple layers of information pointing to the same trait during a single copying event. Using an individual based model, we explore how redundant copying (defined as in the latter way) helps to achieve successful transmission. We show that increasing redundant copying increases the likelihood of accurately transmitting a behavior more than either augmenting the number of copying occasions across time or boosting the general accuracy of social learning. We also investigate how different cost functions, deriving, for example, from the need to invest more energy in cognitive processing, impact the evolution of redundant copying. We show that populations converge either to high-fitness/high-costs states (with high redundant copying and complex culturally transmitted behaviors; resembling human culture) or to low-fitness/low-costs states (with low redundant copying and simple transmitted behaviors; resembling social learning forms typical of non-human animals). This outcome may help to explain why cumulative culture is rare in the animal kingdom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-70
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • cultural transmission
  • cultural evolution
  • cultural stabilization
  • social learning
  • redundant copying
  • individual based model


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