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Beyond Nature Versus Culture: cultural variation as an evolved characteristic

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle


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There is a perceived dichotomy between evolutionary explanations for behaviour and social or cultural ones. In this essay, I attempt to dissolve this dichotomy by pointing out that organisms are susceptible to social or cultural influence because they have evolved mechanisms that make them so. I review two classes of evolutionary explanation for cultural variation, 'evoked' and 'transmitted' culture, and argue that these two classes of mechanism enrich and strengthen existing social science accounts, as well as making new predictions. I suggest a high degree of mutual compatibility and potential gains from trade between the social and biological sciences.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Year: 2009

Volume: 15

Issue: 2

Pages: 223-240

ISSN (print): 1359-0987

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9655

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2009.01561.x


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