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Cultural complexity and demography : the case of folktales.

Acerbi, A. and Kendal, J. and Tehrani, J.J. (2017) 'Cultural complexity and demography : the case of folktales.', Evolution and human behavior., 38 (4). pp. 474-480.

Abstract

We investigate the relationship between cultural complexity and population size in a non-technological cultural domain for which we have suitable quantitative records: folktales. We define three levels of complexity for folk narratives: the number of tale types, the number of narrative motifs, and, finally, the number of traits in variants of the same type, for two well-known tales for which we have data from previous studies. We found a positive relationship between number of tale types and population size, a negative relationship for the number of narrative motifs, and no relationship for the number of traits. The absence of a consistent relationship between population size and complexity in folktales provides a novel perspective on the current debates in cultural evolution. We propose that the link between cultural complexity and demography could be domain dependent: in some domains (e.g. technology) this link is important, whereas in others, such as folktales, complex traditions can be easily maintained in small populations as well as large ones, as they may appeal to universal cognitive biases.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 30 March 2018.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
First Live Deposit - 03 April 2017
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
File format - PDF
(754Kb)
Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.03.005
Publisher statement:© 2017 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Record Created:03 Apr 2017 11:29
Last Modified:16 Jun 2017 10:30

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