The pictures at left come from a MatLab simulation of the spread of behavioral traits through a population. Here, blue cooperators are almost eradicated initially, but form defensive clusters from which they eventually displace green cheaters

Cultural evolution: norms and ideas as viruses

The question of how the ideas, beliefs, and norms that comprise culture propagate and evolve over time is a subject of contentious debate. I take a strict neo-Darwinian view that culture is not an extension of genetic expression (extended phenotype), but exists as a collection of independent entities that can best be thought of and modeled as obligate parasites.   These ideas can "infect" a human mind, altering the host's behavior, and are subject to variation and selection much like genes. And like viruses, cultural ideas may thrive within a human population even if they tend to decrease biological fitness of their hosts.

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2015 Title: Altruism displays a harmonic signature in structured societies
Author(s): S.T. Shutters, D. Hales
Journal: Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 18(3):2
2013 Title: Religion as a Superorganism
Author(s): S.T. Shutters
Conference: Conference on Emergent Approaches to Human Sociality and Religion
Venue: Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. 06-Oct-2013
2013 Title: Tag-mediated altruism is contingent on how cheaters are defined
Author(s): S.T. Shutters, D. Hales
Journal: Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 16(1):4
2013 Title: Cultural polarization and the role of extremist agents: a simple simulation model
Author(s): S.T. Shutters
Journal: Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7812:93-101
2009 Title: Strong reciprocity, social structure, and the evolution of cooperative behavior
Author(s): S.T. Shutters
Doctoral Thesis: Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences
Advisor: Ann P. Kinzig
2008 Title: A simulation model of cultural consensus and persistent conflict
Author(s): S.T. Shutters, B.B. Cutts
Book: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Computational Cultural Dynamics, 71-78
Editor(s): V.S. Subrahamanian, A. Kruglanski
Publisher: AAAI Press. Menlo Park, California