The Status Competition Model of Cultural Production

  • Bo Winegard
  • Ben Winegard
  • David C. Geary
Theoretical Article


Humans create many apparently functionless artifacts such as paintings, novels, poems, films, and decorative blankets. From an evolutionary perspective, such creations appear somewhat puzzling. Why create artifacts that do not appear to contribute to survival? One recent explanation, the cultural courtship model, argued that such creations are used to signal genetic health to the other sex. In this way, cultural creators are potentially rewarded with higher quality mates. We propose an alternative (but not completely contradictory) model, the status competition model of cultural production, which argues that cultural displays often, but not exclusively, signal the possession of important cultural competencies to others in a coalition. Cultural creators are recompensed with prestige, which they can use to secure mates or invest in their kin and lineage. We examine evidence for and against these models and conclude that the status competition model can better explain cultural production than current theory.


Sexual selection Mate choice Prestige Signaling 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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