Natural Rationality | decision-making in the economy of nature


Dual Inheritance Theory (over)simplified

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchAccording to Dual Inheritance Theory, or Gene-Culture Coevolution, cultural evolution and cultural learning mechanisms co-evolved; our innate psychology is biased toward social learning and cultural evolution is modulated by psychological mechanisms. Culture is a population process where innovations are gradually accumulated. Cognition is geared toward imitation thanks to many biases. First, we have content biases, i.e. biases that "cause us to more readily acquire certain beliefs, ideas or behaviors because some aspect of their content makes them more appealing" (Henrich & McElreath, 2007); some food preferences (e.g., cookies) for instance may be acquired partly because we have an innate preferences for sugar. Second, we have context biases, i.e., a sensibility to exploit cues not from "things being learned" but from "individuals who are being learned from" (Ibid.,), or "models" We are sensible to successful and prestigious models and to what other people do (conformist bias). Sometimes we change our beliefs (informational conformity), and sometimes we change our behavior in order to go along with a group (normative conformity). Others like Castro & Toro (2004) suggest that the capacity to approve or disapprove their offspring's learned behavior is as important as imitation.

  • Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (1985). Culture and the Evolutionary Process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (2005). The Origin and Evolution of Cultures Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Castro, L., & Toro, M. A. (2004). The evolution of culture: From primate social learning to human culture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(27), 10235-10240.
  • Henrich, J. and R. McElreath (2007) Dual Inheritance Theory: The Evolution of Human Cultural Capacities and Cultural Evolution. Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, R. Dunbar and L. Barrett, eds., Ch. 38. Oxford: Oxford Univ Press.