I attended the 25th Annual Meeting of Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) in Miami, Florida. I gave a talk on two laboratory experiments I ran on cultural transmission (in press). The experiments tested the predictions of several evolutionary models showing the relationship between sociality (population size, interconnectedness, etc) and cultural complexity.
My results show that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group’s average skill over successive laboratory generations. These results suggest that the secret of our species’ success may lie in the combination of our imitative abilities and our sociality, not in our individual smarts.