Cultural Evolution and Dual Inheritance
To seat humans within the natural world while recognizing our peculiar attributes, evolutionary researchers have increasingly recognized that humans—from our anatomy and physiology to our psychology and behavior—are the product of at least two distinct, but intertwined, inheritance systems, one based on genes and another on culture. To understand the emergence of our cultural inheritance system, much research now demonstrates how natural selection has shaped our attention, memory and motivation to improve our capacities for cultural learning, which infants, children and adults use to acquire everything from food preferences and word choice to tool making and social norms. However, filtered by these learning abilities, an accumulating body of adaptive information about processing food (e.g., cooking), making tools and communicating widely has shaped our species’ genetic evolution, expanding our brains, shrinking our guts, freeing out tongues and domesticating our sociality. In this talk, I’ll explore the centrality of culture-gene coevolution for understanding human evolution, genetic variation, anatomy and psychology.