Adaptationism, Culture, and the Malleability of Human Nature

Chandra Sekhar Sripada

in The Innate Mind, Volume 3

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780195332834
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199868117 | DOI:
Adaptationism, Culture, and the Malleability of Human Nature

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It is often thought that if an adaptationist explanation of some behavioural phenomenon is true, then this fact shows that a culturist explanation of the very same phenomenon is false, or else the adaptationist explanation preempts or crowds out the culturist explanation in some way. This chapter shows why this so-called competition thesis is misguided. Two evolutionary models are identified — the Information Learning Model and the Strategic Learning Model — which show that adaptationist reasoning can help explain why cultural learning evolved. These models suggest that there will typically be a division of labor between adaptationist and culturist explanations. It is then shown that the Strategic Learning Model, which has been widely neglected by adaptationist thinkers, has important and underappreciated implications for a question that has long been contentious in the behavioural sciences — the question of the malleability of human nature.

Keywords: adaptionist reasoning; behaviour; competition thesis; Information Learning Model; Strategic Learning Model

Chapter.  10089 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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