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Mark Schaller and Douglas T. Kenrick. Evolution. Cognition. Communication. Culture. Evolution. Cognition. Communication. Culture. Evolution. Cognition. Communication. Culture. Evolution. Cognition. Communication. Culture. Evolution. Cognition. Communication. Culture.

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Mark Schaller and Douglas T. Kenrick

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

(Other Stuff)


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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Impact of Evolution on Cultural Norms

  • Step 1: Adaptive pressures in ancestral environments shaped human cognition.

  • Step 2: Evolved cognitive tendencies influence the nature of interpersonal communication.

  • Step 3: The specific contents and processes of communication eventually shape the norms that define human cultures.



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Evolved Cognitive Responses are:

  • Functional

    • Formerly functional anyway

  • Fast

    • Automatic activation

  • Flexible

    • Responsive to eliciting cues

  • Flexible

    • Moderated by background variables that indicate costs / benefits  


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Example: Sex Differences in Social Attention and Perception

  • Evolved mechanisms of mate selection require attention to perceptual cues connoting desirable mate characteristics.

    • These cues differ for men and women.

  • Visual attention to faces (Maner et al., in press):

    • For men, attention is drawn especially to physically attractive women. (Among women, things are different.)

  • Perception of emotion in faces (Maner et al.):

    • Men misperceive sexual arousal in the faces of attractive women, especially when romantic goals are temporarily activated. (Among women, things are different.)


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Example: Cognitive Consequences of Disease-Avoidance Mechanism

  • Evolved disease-avoidance mechanism requires attention to perceptual cues connoting contagion.

    • E.g.: body morphology, cultural foreignness.

  • Cognitive link between morphology and disease.

    • Individuals implicitly associate physical disability with disease, especially when they feel more vulnerable to disease (Park et al., 2003).

  • Cognitive link between ‘foreignness’ and disease.

    • Individuals express negative attitudes toward the immigration of foreign peoples, especially when they feel more vulnerable to disease (Faulkner et al.).



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Selective Pressures on the Contents of Communication Mechanism

  • Emphasis here is not on how we communicate, but rather on what we communicate about: The contents of communication.

  • When we communicate with other people, we communicate selectively: We talk more about some things, and less about others.

  • This selection process is non-random: It is influenced by chronic cognitive constraints and by temporarily activated cognitive structures.


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Some Examples Mechanism

  • Cognitive capacity / Desire for simplicity:

    • Scientific citations: Studies with complex conclusions are less likely to be cited. (And complex findings are often mis-represented as simpler than they are).

    • Stereotypes: Maintenance of central tendency but loss of variability information (e.g., Kashima and others).

  • Self-presentation (Schaller and Conway, 1999):

    • Stereotypes: Desire to make a positive impression influences what people talk about when they talk about groups – and this has unintended effects on emerging group stereotypes



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Mere Communication and the Coalescence of Cultural Norms Mechanism

  • Dynamic Social Impact Theory (Latane).

  • Social influence inevitably occurs through the mere act of communication.

  • Repeated local acts of interpersonal communication have eventual population-level consequences that unfold dynamically over time:

    • Emergence of distinct clusters of beliefs, behavior, and other kinds of cultural norms.

    • Emergence of overlap between previously uncorrelated norms.


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In the beginning… Mechanism

Liberal attitudes

Conservative attitudes


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Later, after lots of communication… Mechanism

Liberal attitudes

Conservative attitudes


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Selective Communication and the Specific Contents of Culture Mechanism

  • Communication is selective. (We tend to talk about some things more than others.)

  • Communication processes impose selection pressures on any belief that is, or might be, culturally normative.

  • More ‘communicable’ beliefs are more likely to become culturally normative, and to remain that way.


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Example: Communicability Predicts Contents of Shared Stereotypes

  • (Schaller, Conway, & Tanchuk, 2002)

  • Measure of the extent to which people are likely to talk about the personal traits of individuals.

  • Measure of the persistence of these traits in popular stereotypes of U.S. Blacks across time.

  • Ten different tests of the communicability-persistence correlation.

  • The correlation was always positive: More communicable beliefs were more likely persist in culturally-shared stereotypes over time.


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Putting It All Together Stereotypes

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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Disease, Disgust, and the Transmission of Popular Beliefs Stereotypes

  • Evolution: Disgust is an evolved emotional signal, signaling potential threat of contagion.

  • Cognition: Disgusting information grabs our attention.

  • Communication: We are especially inclined to communicate disgusting information to others.

  • Culture: Disgusting information is more likely to become and remain part of cultural belief systems.

    • E.g., Research on urban legends (Heath et al., 2001).


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Threat, Prejudice, and Persistence of Cultural Stereotypes Stereotypes

  • Evolution: Beliefs linking ‘tribal’ outgroups to danger protected individuals from the negative consequences of unexpected intergroup contact.

  • Cognition: These prejudicial beliefs are quickly learned and easily activated, especially when individuals feel vulnerable to harm

    • E.g., Research on darkness (Schaller et al., 2003).

  • Communication: Information connoting danger/safety is especially communicable.

  • Culture: Information connoting danger/safety is especially persistent in cultural belief systems

    • E.g., Research on contents of stereotypes of U.S. Blacks.


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Evolved Preferences and Construction of Sexual Subcultures Stereotypes

  • Evolution: Differential parental investment.

  • Cognition: Sex differences in preferences for ‘restricted’ or ‘unrestricted’ mating.

  • Communication: Interpersonal negotiation of socially acceptable sexual behavior (necessary in order in order to attract and retain mates).

  • Culture: Dynamical emergence of different sexual subcultures, defined by collective tendencies toward restricted or unrestricted mating behavior (Kenrick, Butner, & Li, 2003)


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Males Stereotypes

Initial

Preferences:

(Majority are unrestricted)

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted

(Majority are restricted)


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Males Stereotypes

Each individual must consider the preferences of available opposite-sex neighbors, and possibly modify behavior accordingly

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted


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Males Stereotypes

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted


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Males Stereotypes

Initial

Tendencies:

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted


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Males Stereotypes

Eventual Pattern

Of Behavior:

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted


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In Summary Stereotypes

  • “Culture is the precipitate of cognition and communication in a human population” (Sperber, 1984).

  • Communication is guided and constrained by the cognitive residue of our evolutionary past.

  • This set of relationships provides a useful template for inquiry into some of the many ways in which evolution influences culture.


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Evolution Stereotypes

Cognition

Communication

Culture


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