The Relationship between the Accuracy of Cultural Transmission and the Strength of Cultural Attractors

Author: Rafał Miśta
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 17, Number 2 / September 2018


On the basis of Dan Sperber's model of cultural attraction (Sperber 1996), it is verified how various levels of cultural transmission accuracy influence the role of cultural attractors with different strengths. To this end, a simulation model is used, in which cultural representations are transmitted in a continuous space of possibilities. The conclusion is that the role of cultural attractors is enhanced (more cultural representations are going to be concentrated in the vicinity of attractors) when the cultural transmission is relatively faithful. Thereby, weak forces of attraction can be substituted by accurate transmission and the influence of strong attractors can be neutralized by too unfaithful transmission. This applies especially to cultural transmissions where large random modifications of the original cultural item are allowed rather than in case of constant error during copying.