IMC Seminar: visits from Jyväskylä (Finland) and Santa Fe (USA)

"Group competition boosts innovation and cultural development", "Personality and plasticity in social learning strategies" and "Religion’s social returns: status and social support in rural South India"

2017.01.19 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Thu 16 Mar
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483-312

Mikael Puurtinen

Stephen Heap

Eleanor Power

Group competition boosts innovation and cultural development

Speaker: Mikael Puurtinen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

Recent evolutionary models of social learning have found that innovation presents a ‘cultural social dilemma’ similar to the evolutionary problem of cooperation. While new, improved solutions to ecological problems benefit everyone in a social group, innovating is often risky and costly in terms of time and resources. Thus, innovation benefits everyone in a group, but the costs of coming up with new solutions are borne individually. Utilizing a new experimental software for social learning studies, we studied how the scale of competition (between individuals vs. between groups) influences innovation and cultural progress, and found that group competition indeed elevated rates of innovation and cultural progress, compared to a situation where individuals compete against members of their social group.


Personality and plasticity in social learning strategies

Speaker: Stephen Heap (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

In a variable and uncertain world, social learning is a powerful and efficient means for individuals to gather the information necessary for adaptive decision making. It is critical to understand the flexibility and constraints of these abilities, as they can shape how populations collectively learn and culturally evolve. However, it remains an open question as to whether humans can vary in their use of different social learning strategies across different decision making contexts. We thus used an online decision making task coupled with a personality assessment to assess the degree to which learning strategy (e.g. imitating popular solutions, imitating successful individuals, innovating new solutions) can vary between and within individuals across a range of biologically relevant social situations (e.g. mate acquisition, self-protection).


Religion’s social returns: status and social support in rural South India

Speaker: Eleanor Power (Santa Fe Institute, USA)

In South India, as in much of the world, religious devotees invest time, money, and energy and even risk serious bodily harm in the regular course of their religious lives. Drawing on records of individuals' religious acts, reputational standing, and social support networks from two villages, I will show that those individuals who invest more in the religious life of the village are seen as more devout and prosocial by their peers, who are therefore more likely to call upon religious individuals for help and assistance. At the group structural level, Hindus and Catholics who partake in collective rituals together are more likely to have a supportive relationship and form denser community clusters. These findings add strong empirical evidence to the work on the evolution of prosocial religions.