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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
Mark Schaller and Douglas T. Kenrick

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

slide4

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

slide5

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

slide6

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

(Other Stuff)

slide7

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

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Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

impact of evolution on cultural norms
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.
evolved cognitive responses are
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  
example sex differences in social attention and perception
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.)
example cognitive consequences of disease avoidance mechanism
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.).
selective pressures on the contents of communication
Selective Pressures on the Contents of Communication
  • 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.
some examples
Some Examples
  • 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
mere communication and the coalescence of cultural norms
Mere Communication and the Coalescence of Cultural Norms
  • 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…

Liberal attitudes

Conservative attitudes

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Later, after lots of communication…

Liberal attitudes

Conservative attitudes

selective communication and the specific contents of culture
Selective Communication and the Specific Contents of Culture
  • 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.
example communicability predicts contents of shared stereotypes
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

Evolution

Cognition

Communication

Culture

disease disgust and the transmission of popular beliefs
Disease, Disgust, and the Transmission of Popular Beliefs
  • 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).
threat prejudice and persistence of cultural stereotypes
Threat, Prejudice, and Persistence of Cultural 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.
evolved preferences and construction of sexual subcultures
Evolved Preferences and Construction of Sexual Subcultures
  • 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

Initial

Preferences:

(Majority are unrestricted)

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted

(Majority are restricted)

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Males

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

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted

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Males

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted

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Males

Initial

Tendencies:

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted

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Males

Eventual Pattern

Of Behavior:

Unrestricted

Females

Restricted

in summary
In Summary
  • “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

Cognition

Communication

Culture

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