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FOCAL REVIEWS The Transmission of Genes and Culture: A Questionable Analogy

The Transmission of Genes and Culture: A Questionable Analogy
Nicolas Claidie`re · Jean-Baptiste Andre´
Received: 28 June 2011 / Accepted: 4 October 2011
Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
Abstract Modes of cultural transmission are, by analogy
with modes of genetic transmission, ways in which cultural
information is transmitted between individuals. Despite its
importance across the behavioral sciences and for theories
of cultural evolution, no attempts have been made, to our
knowledge, to critically analyze this analogy. We here aim
at such detailed comparison and show that the fundamental
role of modes of transmission in biology results mainly
from two properties of genetic transmission: (1) what is
transmitted generally does not influence the way in which it
is transmitted; (2) there is a limited number of simple and
stable modes. In culture however, modes of transmission
generally lack these two fundamental properties. In par-
ticular, in culture it is often the rate of evolutionary change
that determines the mode of transmission. We offer some


Source: André, Jean-Baptiste - CNRS & Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, Paris 6


Collections: Biology and Medicine