Chapter

Epistemological Dimensions of Evolutionary Psychology

pp 117-130

Date:

Like Me: A Homophily-Based Account of Human Culture

  • Daniel HaunAffiliated withUniversity of Jena Email author 
  • , Harriet OverAffiliated withUniversity of York

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Abstract

In this chapter, we introduce a homophilic account of human social structure and cultural transmission. According to this account, a tendency to favour similar others (homophily) has been a key driving force in creating unique human forms of culture and thus evoked the striking differences we observe between human groups. We begin by presenting evidence that, from the early stages of development, humans have shown a strong tendency to interact with, and learn from, individuals who are similar to themselves. Following this, we propose that the homophilic preferences of the group in general has created a feedback loop that ensures that children engage in high-fidelity copying of the group’s behavioural repertoire. This allows children to reap the benefits of others’ homophilic preferences and to therefore maintain their position within the group. In consequence, homophilic preferences have transformed a number of mechanisms that we share with other species, for example emulation and majority-biased transmission, into human unique variants such as social imitation and conformity. Homophilic preferences have furthermore spawned a new tendency to interpret the structure of actions as social signals: norm-psychology. The homophily account thus connects previously disparate findings in comparative, developmental, and social psychology and provides a unified account of the importance of the preference for similar others in species-specific human social behaviour.

Keywords

Homophily Social structure Cultural transmission Norm-psychology Conformity