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In the last 30 years, evolutionary theory has undergone explosive growth in studying humans as a fundamentally cultural species.

David talks with Alex Mesoudi about this field of cultural evolution and how it is bringing a full view of humanity into inquiry and building bridges across disparate fields of science.

Alex’s book, “Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences



Published On: September 2, 2020

Alex Mesoudi

Alex Mesoudi

Alex Mesoudi is an Associate Professor of Cultural Evolution at the University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus), UK. He conducts research into human cultural evolution: explaining cultural change using the concepts, tools and methods of evolutionary theory. Specifically, he uses lab experiments and theoretical models to simulate the individual-level social learning processes – who copies what, from whom, and when – that generate large-scale patterns of cultural change and diversity. Much of his work has examined technological evolution, looking at arrowheads and handaxes. More recently he has been studying immigration as a source of cultural change and stasis. His 2011 book, Cultural Evolution, was his attempt to synthesise cultural evolution research across multiple disciplines to encourage a unified evolutionary science of culture

One Comment

  • Leeroy says:

    The bit about the detrimental effects of partial understanding in _Causal understanding is not necessary for the improvement of culturally evolving technology_ reminds me of the findings of a UX paper, Christof van Nimwegen _The paradox of the guided user: assistance can be counter-effective_:

    “Externalization makes users count on the interface and gives them the feeling (unrightfully so) that the thinking-work is done for them. This seduces them into more shallow cognitive behavior and discourages undertaking cognitive activities aimed at strategy and knowledge construction. Users who internalize information themselves behave more plan-based, invest more effort in cognitive processes, and are more proactive and ready to make inferences. This in turn results in more focus, more direct and economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge. This knowledge is easier to recall at a future point in time, and is better transferable to transfer situations where the interface, the task, or both are different, and less vulnerable to a severe interruption.”

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