Cumulative culture in our species is produced by combining an effective imitation with the innovation of new insights. Here, we highlight the role of another element that we consider important for cumulative culture: the active persistence of learned behaviour so that it can be imitated. To illustrate this idea, we develop a simple model of cumulative culture. We show that the active persistence of a behaviour is necessary for cumulative behaviour to emerge and be maintained: the greater the active persistence of the behaviour, the greater the cultural accumulation. The active persistence of a behaviour is easy when its implementation provides reinforcement. We introduce reinforcement into the model through parental approval/disapproval of filial behaviour. We assume that parental reinforcement helps keep behaviours active, although these can vary in the degree of active persistence that they achieve. We also show that a positive effect of cumulative behaviour on fitness favours its cultural accumulation. However, cumulative culture can also arise when a behaviour is neutral or even maladaptive if the behaviour remains active long enough to be imitated.
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Castro, L., Castro-Cañadilla, D., Castro-Nogueira, M.Á. et al. Cumulative culture: the role of reinforcement. SN Soc Sci 2, 134 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43545-022-00456-y
- Assessor teaching
- Cultural evolution
- Social learning