Cultural evolution of cooperation: The interplay between forms of social learning and group selection.

Andrés E. Quiñones, Lucas Molleman, Franz J. Weissing.

The role of cultural group selection in the evolution of human cooperation is hotly debated. It has been argued that group selection is more effective in cultural evolution than in genetic evolution, because some forms of cultural transmission (conformism and/or the tendency to follow a leader) reduce intra-group variation while creating stable cultural variation between groups. This view is supported by some models, while other models lead to contrasting and sometimes opposite conclusions. A consensus view has not yet been achieved, partly because the modelling studies differ in their assumptions on the dynamics of cultural transmission and the mode of group selection. To clarify matters, we created an individual-based model allowing for a systematic comparison of how different social learning rules governing cultural transmission affect the evolution of cooperation in a group-structured population. We consider two modes of group selection (selection by group replacement or by group contagion) and systematically vary the frequency and impact of group-level processes. From our simulations we conclude that the outcome of cultural evolution strongly reflects the interplay of social learning rules and the mode of group selection. For example, conformism hampers or even prevents the evolution of cooperation if group selection acts via contagion; it may facilitate the evolution of cooperation if group selection acts via replacement. In contrast, leader-imitation promotes the evolution of cooperation under a broader range of conditions.