Biology & Philosophy

, 33:40 | Cite as

Cultural transmission and biological markets

  • Claude Loverdo
  • Hugo VicianaEmail author


Active cultural transmission of fitness-enhancing behavior (sometimes called “teaching”) can be seen as a costly strategy: one for which its evolutionary stability poses a Darwinian puzzle. In this article, we offer a biological market model of cultural transmission that substitutes or complements existing kin selection-based proposals for the evolution of cultural capacities. We demonstrate how a biological market can account for the evolution of teaching when individual learners are the exclusive focus of social learning (such as in a fast-changing environment). We also show how this biological market can affect the dynamics of cumulative culture. The model works best when it is difficult to have access to the observation of the behavior without the help of the actor. However, in contrast to previous non-mathematical hypotheses for the evolution of teaching, we show how teaching evolves, even when innovations are insufficiently opaque and therefore vulnerable to acquisition by emulators via inadvertent transmission. Furthermore, teaching in a biological market is an important precondition for enhancing individual learning abilities.


Social learning Comparative advantage Teaching Cumulative culture Partner choice 



HV received support from a La Caixa Foundation Scholarship at the initial stage of the preparation of this work. This article has benefited from feedback of audiences at the University of Cambridge, the University of Granada, the University of Louvain-la-neuve, and the University of Paris 1. Special thanks should be given to Camilo Cela-Conde, Jean Gayon, Gabi Lipede, Pierre Livet, Hugo Mercier, Susana Monso, Dan Sperber, Neftali Villanueva, and several anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of this work. In remembrance of Jean Gayon (1949–2018).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Jean Perrin, UMR 8237 - CNRSSorbonne UniversiteParis Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Juan de la Cierva Research FellowInstituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados-CSICCordobaSpain

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