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AISB event Bulletin Item

TODAY! Whitehead Lecture Wednesday 8th December - DR. ALEX MESOUDI - Chinese whispers and virtual arrowheads: experimental studies of human cultural evolution

The seventh Whitehead lecture of autumn term 2010 will be given by Dr. Alex
Mesoudi, Biological and Experimental Psychology Group, Queen Mary,
University of London, at 4 pm on Wednesday 8th December, and will be
entitled "Chinese whispers and virtual arrowheads: experimental studies of
human cultural evolution".

An abstract for the lecture and short biography for the speaker are appended

The lecture will take place at 4pm on Wednesday 8th December in the Ben
Pimlott lecture theatre at Goldsmiths College

Chinese whispers and virtual arrowheads: experimental studies of human
cultural evolution
- Dr. Alex Mesoudi

ABSTRACT: Over the last few decades, a growing body of theory has begun to
analyse human culture - the body of beliefs, skills, knowledge, customs,
attitudes and norms that is transmitted from individual to individual via
social learning - as a Darwinian evolutionary process. Just as the
biological evolution of species can be characterised as a Darwinian process
of variation, selection and inheritance, so too culture exhibits these basic
Darwinian properties. I will present the results of a series of experiments
that have simulated cultural evolution in the lab using methods from social
psychology. One set of studies using the "transmission chain method" have
identified a bias in cultural evolution for information concerning social
interactions over non-social interactions, as predicted by the "social
brain" theory of human intelligence. Another set of studies have simulated
the cultural evolution of prehistoric arrowhead designs, testing hypotheses
that different patterns of arrowhead variation are caused by different ways
in which arrowhead designs were transmitted between prehistoric
hunter-gatherers. Generally, psychology experiments offer a valuable tool
for studying human cultural evolution, while at the same time a cultural
evolutionary framework can provide added validity to psychology experiments
by linking them to patterns and trends in the ethnographic and
archaeological records.

BRIEF BIO: I am currently Lecturer in the Biological and Experimental
Psychology Group, Queen Mary University of London. I did my PhD in the
School of Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and have held
postdoctoral research posts at the University of Missouri-Columbia,
University of British Columbia and University of Cambridge. My research
interests lie in the experimental study of human cultural transmission and
theoretical studies of human cultural evolution.