Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The core cognitive architecture responsible for cumulative culture and technological progress also supports the propagation of rituals: our socially motivated propensity for engaging in high‐fidelity imitation

The Social Glue of Cumulative Culture and Ritual Behavior. Mark Nielsen. Child Development Perspectives, https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12297

Abstract: Cumulative culture, where innovations are incorporated progressively into a population's stock of skills and knowledge, generating more sophisticated repertoires, is a core aspect of human cognition underpinning the technological advances that characterize our species. Cumulative culture relies on our proclivity for high‐fidelity imitation, a characteristic that emerged phylogenetically early in our evolutionary history and emerges ontogenetically early in our development. Commensurate with this proclivity to copy others comes a tradeoff that behaviors that are functionally irrelevant will be easily maintained and transmitted. Rituals are an expression of this. In this article, I argue that the core cognitive architecture responsible for cumulative culture and technological progress also supports the propagation of rituals: our socially motivated propensity for engaging in high‐fidelity imitation.