Culture, Adaptation, and Innateness

Robert Boyd, Peter J. Richerson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Culture has fundamentally changed the nature of human evolution because it creates a novel evolutionary tradeoff. Social learning allows human populations to rapidly evolve accumulate cultural evolution of highly adaptive culturally transmitted behaviors. However, to get the benefits of social learning, humans have to be credulous, for the most part accepting the ways that they observe in their society as sensible and proper; such credulity opens up human minds to the spread of maladaptive beliefs. These costs can be reduced by tinkering with our evolved psychology, but they cannot be eliminated without losing the adaptive benefits of cumulative cultural evolution. The classic naturenurture controversy neglects the processes of gene-culture coevolution. An evolutionary psychology lacking an account of this fundamental tradeoff cannot successfully explain human evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCulture and Cognition
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199871209
ISBN (Print)9780195310139
StatePublished - May 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural evolution
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Gene-culture coevolution
  • Human evolution
  • Nature-nurture controversy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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