Linguistics and English Language

Language evolution seminar

Speaker: Vanessa Ferdinand (Santa Fe Institute)

Title: On the cultural evolution of public and private replicators

Abstract: When we replicate cultural artifacts, we transform them. But we are also selective when choosing which artifacts to copy in the first place. In this talk, I will discuss the California and Paris schools of cultural evolution as compatible descriptions of evolutionary processes acting on public and private representations, respectively. First, using a unique corpus of digital image evolution, I will show how public and private selection processes co-determine the evolution of image complexity in this system. These results demonstrate that public and private selection processes are both required for a full understanding of the evolution of cultural artifacts. Second, in a novel model of Bayesian cultural evolution, I will explore how the mappings between public and private representations determine the co-evolutionary dynamics of these two classes of replicators (i.e. data and hypotheses). This model provides a richer set of dynamics than those found in existing models of cultural evolution where public representations adapt to fixed private representations. Both of these projects highlight culture as a special evolutionary system that is composed of two classes of replicators (following Sperber, 1996): public structures in the world, such as artifacts and behaviors, and private structures in the mind, such as brain states and grammars.


Seminars are organised by the Centre for Language Evolution

Svenja Wagner

Centre for Language Evolution

Mar 09 2018 -

Language evolution seminar

2018-03-09: Vanessa Ferdinand (Santa Fe Institute)

Room 3.01, 17-25 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9LN