ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (12): 2137-2149.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2020.02137

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The cognitive perspective of cultural evolution: Exploring cultural dynamics from the view of social learning

CHEN Weiyang1, XIE Tian2()   

  1. 1Research Institute of Social Development, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu 611130, China
    2Department of Psychology, School of Philosophy, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
  • Received:2020-04-01 Online:2020-12-15 Published:2020-10-26
  • Contact: XIE Tian


Cultural evolution is a topic of concern for multiple disciplines. The cognitive perspective is a way for psychologists to enter into this domain. It focuses on individual cognition in the social and cultural environment, while studying the processing, change, memory, and extraction of cultural information in individual social learning. Drawing on Darwin’s theory of biological evolution, it involves cultural inheritance, cultural innovation, and cultural selection, additionally it proposes three principles of cultural evolution, i.e. inheritance, variation, and selection. The paths of cultural inheritance include imitation and teaching, as well as the specific types of instrumental cultural inheritance and conventional cultural inheritance. Cultural innovation is hierarchical, and cumulative cultural evolution, which is peculiar to human beings, is based on cultural innovation and reflects the intergenerational transmission of cultural innovation. Cultural selection based on behavioral ecology and the human cognitive mechanism would result in differential adaptation of cultural information. Future studies could explore higher levels of cultural innovation, expand the antecedent variables of cultural evolution, and deepen the understanding of cultural evolution with new technologies. In addition, future research could promote the study of cultural psychology, study the influence of cultural mixing, and the effect of personality on cultural evolution.

Key words: cultural evolution, social learning, cultural inheritance, cultural innovation, cultural selection

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