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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ingroup-Biased Copying Promotes Cultural Diversity and Complexity


Studies have found that when innovation involves recombining cultural traits, partially-connected populations produce higher levels of cultural complexity than fully-connected populations by avoiding cultural homogenization. However, population connectedness is only one of many factors that could promote cultural diversity and thus cultural complexity. Here, we examine whether people's preference for copying members of their own social group could also fill this role. Our simulations reveal that even in fully-connected populations, ingroup-biased transmission results in greater cultural complexity than unbiased transmission. Moreover, in partially-connected populations, this bias interacts with population structure to produce even higher levels of cultural complexity than population structure alone. Finally, by incorporating population turnover into our model, we shed light on the trade-off between promoting cultural diversity versus limiting cultural loss.

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