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Unknotting the interactive effects of learning processes on cultural evolutionary dynamics

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Document pages: 13 pages

Abstract: 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.

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