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Unknotting the interactive effects of learning processes on cultural evolutionary dynamics.

Scanlon, Lauren and Lobb, Andrew and Tehrani, Jamshid J. and Kendal, Jeremy R. (2019) 'Unknotting the interactive effects of learning processes on cultural evolutionary dynamics.', Evolutionary human sciences., 1 . e17.


Forms of non-random copying error provide sources of inherited variation yet their effects on cultural evolutionary dynamics are poorly understood. Focusing on variation in granny and reef knot forms, we present a mathematical model that specifies how these variant frequencies are affected by non-linear interactions between copying fidelity, mirroring, handedness and repetition biases. Experiments on adult humans allowed these effects to be estimated using Approximate Bayesian Computation and the model is iterated to explain the prevalence of granny over reef knots in the wild. Our study system also serves to show conditions under which copying fidelity drives heterogeneity in cultural variants at equilibrium, and that interaction between unbiased forms of copying error can skew cultural variation.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
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Publisher statement:COPYRIGHT: © The Author(s) 2019.This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:11 November 2019
Date deposited:11 November 2019
Date of first online publication:23 December 2019
Date first made open access:16 January 2020

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