Exploring Cultural Niche Construction from the Paleolithic to Modern Hunter-Gatherers
Niche construction is an evolutionary process through which organisms modify their environments, thereby altering the selection pressures on future generations. Cultural niche construction theory concentrates on those changes made by the spread of socially learned traits or to the evolutionary niche in which these learned traits evolve. We present a number of cultural niche construction models exploring important cultural processes that are either unique to, or uniquely well developed in, modern humans. We assess the role of these processes in the success of humans compared to other now extinct Homo species.
We concentrate particularly on cooperation, cooperative hunting, and active teaching. We show that teaching can increase the probability of a trait with marginal fitness benefits becoming fixed in the population, that this effect is strengthened by oblique transmission, and that teaching can increase the speed of cultural evolution.
Finally, we show that the evolution of cooperation is strengthened by homophily, in which cooperative individuals prefer to partner with other cooperators, and that strong transmission of cooperative norms can support the evolution of costly sharing practices through cultural niche construction.
KeywordsCooperation Cultural niche construction Teaching
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