Human Nature

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 283–305

Cultural Macroevolution on Neighbor Graphs

Vertical and Horizontal Transmission among Western North American Indian Societies
  • Mary C. Towner
  • Mark N. Grote
  • Jay Venti
  • Monique Borgerhoff Mulder
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12110-012-9142-z

Cite this article as:
Towner, M.C., Grote, M.N., Venti, J. et al. Hum Nat (2012) 23: 283. doi:10.1007/s12110-012-9142-z

Abstract

What are the driving forces of cultural macroevolution, the evolution of cultural traits that characterize societies or populations? This question has engaged anthropologists for more than a century, with little consensus regarding the answer. We develop and fit autologistic models, built upon both spatial and linguistic neighbor graphs, for 44 cultural traits of 172 societies in the Western North American Indian (WNAI) database. For each trait, we compare models including or excluding one or both neighbor graphs, and for the majority of traits we find strong evidence in favor of a model which uses both spatial and linguistic neighbors to predict a trait’s distribution. Our results run counter to the assertion that cultural trait distributions can be explained largely by the transmission of traits from parent to daughter populations and are thus best analyzed with phylogenies. In contrast, we show that vertical and horizontal transmission pathways can be incorporated in a single model, that both transmission modes may indeed operate on the same trait, and that for most traits in the WNAI database, accounting for only one mode of transmission would result in a loss of information.

Keywords

American IndiansCultural evolutionCultural transmissionCultural traitsCross-cultural variationAutologistic modelsNeighbor graphsModel comparison

Supplementary material

12110_2012_9142_MOESM1_ESM.docx (468 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 467 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary C. Towner
    • 1
  • Mark N. Grote
    • 2
  • Jay Venti
    • 2
  • Monique Borgerhoff Mulder
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA