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COMPLEX SYSTEMS SEMINAR | Group-Level Traits in Cultural Evolution: Globalization and the Evolution of Power

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
12:00 AM
4448 East Hall

Understanding human cultural evolution requires the consideration of emergent group-level traits, including collective behaviors and social institutions. First, I will discuss the role of group-level traits in theories of cultural evolution. Following that, I will present an agent-based multilevel selection model in which individual norms of cooperation and group-level institutions of power can co-evolve. The literature on cooperation has generally considered selfish strategies as something to be purged or marginalized to the periphery of the group. The model suggests an alternative view, in which cooperative norms are maintained among the majority while a persistent minority of selfish agents yields to the group an evolutionary advantage. Skewed, undemocratic power structures facilitate the decoupling and divergence of collective behavior from individual behavior. As the global population becomes more integrated and the rate of conflict between groups increases, selection increasingly favors institutions in which wealth correlates with power in collective decision making. The coevolution of cooperative social norms and institutions of power facilitates the emergence of a leadership class of the selfish and has implications for theories of inequality, structures of governance, non-cooperative personality traits, and hierarchy.