Effects of conformism on the cultural evolution of social behaviour

Lucas Molleman*, Ido Pen, Franz J. Weissing

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

26 Citaten (Scopus)
222 Downloads (Pure)


Models of cultural evolution study how the distribution of cultural traits changes over time. The dynamics of cultural evolution strongly depends on the way these traits are transmitted between individuals by social learning. Two prominent forms of social learning are payoff-based learning (imitating others that have higher payoffs) and conformist learning (imitating locally common behaviours). How payoff-based and conformist learning affect the cultural evolution of cooperation is currently a matter of lively debate, but few studies systematically analyse the interplay of these forms of social learning. Here we perform such a study by investigating how the interaction of payoff-based and conformist learning affects the outcome of cultural evolution in three social contexts. First, we develop a simple argument that provides insights into how the outcome of cultural evolution will change when more and more conformist learning is added to payoff-based learning. In a social dilemma (e. g. a Prisoner's Dilemma), conformism can turn cooperation into a stable equilibrium; in an evasion game (e. g. a Hawk-Dove game or a Snowdrift game) conformism tends to destabilize the polymorphic equilibrium; and in a coordination game (e. g. a Stag Hunt game), conformism changes the basin of attraction of the two equilibria. Second, we analyse a stochastic event-based model, revealing that conformism increases the speed of cultural evolution towards pure equilibria. Individual-based simulations as well as the analysis of the diffusion approximation of the stochastic model by and large confirm our findings. Third, we investigate the effect of an increasing degree of conformism on cultural group selection in a group-structured population. We conclude that, in contrast to statements in the literature, conformism hinders rather than promotes the evolution of cooperation.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's8
TijdschriftPLoS ONE
Nummer van het tijdschrift7
StatusPublished - 10-jul-2013

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