January 21, 2015

3:09 PM | Cultural Evolution: Literary History, Popular Music, Cultural Beings, Temporality, and the Mesh
Another working paper (title above): SSRN: Abstract and introduction below. * * * * * Abstract: Culture is implemented in a material and biological substrate but has a distinct ontology and its phenomena belong to a distinct order of temporality. The evolution of culture proceeds by random variation among coordinators, the […]

January 20, 2015

5:16 PM | Tone and humidity
Does the weather effect the languages we speak? This week, Caleb Everett, Damian Blasi and I have a paper out in PNAS on the effects of humidity on the production and perception of lexical tone, and the subsequent predictions about the distribution of tone across the world. The basic principle behind studies of cultural evolution […]
3:29 PM | Issues in Cultural Evolution 2.2: ‘Cultural Genes’ are Out There in the World
I think the thing to do at this point is post a version of my own view of cultural evolution, but one that skips the terminology that I’ve recently adopted. In this version, which more or less centers on my 1996 article, Culture as an Evolutionary Arena, I adopt the term “meme” as the name […]
10:11 AM | Reminder for upcoming conferences
The deadline is approaching for several relevant call for papers: At this year’s International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Glasgow there will be a special interest group on the Evolution of our phonetic capabilities. It will focus on the interaction between biological and cultural evolution and encourages work from different modalities too. The deadline is 16th Feb. […]

January 19, 2015

9:49 PM | Issues in Cultural Evolution 2.1: Micro Evolution, Dawkins and Memes
It’s time I get back to my attempt to lay out a map of approaches to cultural evolution in a limited number of posts, say a half dozen or even less (in my first post I said three). This is the first of two or three posts in which I look at ideas of the […]

January 18, 2015

3:47 PM | When Replicating Stapel is not an Exercise in Futility
Over 50 of Diederik Stapel’s papers have been retracted because of fraud. This means that his “findings,” have now ceased to exist in the literature. But what does this mean for his hypotheses?*Does the fact that Stapel has committed fraud count as evidence against his hypotheses? Our first inclination is perhaps to think yes. In theory, it is possible that Stapel ran a number of studies, never obtained the predicted results, and then decided to take matters into his own hands […]

January 15, 2015

5:14 PM | Rhythm Changes: Notes on Some Genetic Elements in Musical Culture
That’s the title of another working paper. You may download it from (HERE) or from Social Science Research Network (HERE). Here’s the abstract: An entity known as Rhythm Changes is analyzed as a genetic entity in musical culture. Because it functions to coordinate the activities of musicians who are playing together it can be […]
10:39 AM | Tokyo Lectures in Language Evolution
This will certainly be of interest to rep typo readers. Info below: We are pleased to announce that the Tokyo Lectures in Language Evolution will be held from the 2nd – 5th of April 2015 at the Komaba II Campus of the University of Tokyo. The event will bring together researchers from around the world […]

January 14, 2015

10:23 AM | Seratonin and short-term/long-term orientation
This week I discovered that an analysis using Causal Graphs that James and I did in 2013 has been backed up by more recent data.  This demonstrates the power of Causal Graph analysis, which we’ll be discussing in our workshop on Causality in the Language Sciences (submission deadline extended!) A recent paper demonstrates a correlation […]

January 09, 2015

5:13 PM | Issues in Cultural Evolution 1: Cultural Stability in the Mesh
This is the first of a series of three posts – I hope it’s only three – in which I explore the relationships between my views on cultural evolution and the views of more orthodox thinkers. The number of thinkers is in fact quite large, but I don’t intended to be exhaustive, just indicative. For […]

January 05, 2015

8:59 PM | Cultural Beings Evolving in the Mesh
This one wrestled me hard. In it I use new terminology and concepts–coordinators, phantasms, cultural beings–as though I know what they mean and am comfortable with them. But that’s not quite the case. It’s only recently that I’ve invented them. It’s one them to use terms in a document where you define them. It’s another […]
2:27 PM | The Vocal Iconicity Challenge!
Do you fancy the prospect of putting your communication skills to the test and winning $1000? If so, you should probably go and check out The Vocal Iconicity Challenge: Devised by Gary Lupyan and Marcus Perlman, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the aim of the game is to devise a system of vocalizations to communicate a […]

January 04, 2015

7:21 PM | Signaling the Intent to Signal
Before I get distracted by too much nit-picking, let me get to the summary paragraph: Thomas Scott-Phillips' book, Speaking Our Minds, contributes seriously to the study of language origins. First and foremost, it demands that pragmatics—the study of language in...
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