Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

What do we know about Cultural Transmission?

Posted 29 Jan 2016 / 0

As I have been working on my book-in-progress (Breeders, Propagators, & Creators), I have encountered a difficult-to-answer question of road-block proportions: how do we quantify cultural transmission? The focus of my book is the tradeoff humans face between making babies, spreading existing culture, and inventing new ideas. If such a tradeoff exists, we need to be able Read More

A Major Post, Behavior, Belief, Books, Breeders, Propagators, & Creators, Communication, Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Evolution, Emotion, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Memetic Fitness, Parenting, Psychology, Religion, Sexual Conflict, Sociology

Emerging Society for the Study of Cultural Evolution releases roadmap document

Posted 17 Jan 2016 / 1

Pallas Athena emerging from the head of Zeus courtesy of Wikimedia Commons This is an exciting time in the study of cultural evolution, so it is appropriate that a new scholarly society dedicated to the study of how culture evolves should emerge. Supported by the Evolution Institute, a number of prominent academics whose work includes Read More

A Minor Post, Cultural Evolution, Public Outreach, Society for the Study of Cultural Evolution

An eye is not an eye is not an eye

Posted 16 Jan 2016 / 0

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons National Geographic “Inside the Eye: Nature’s Most Exquisite Creation” This is another fantastic article by Ed Yong that very nicely captures the relativistic nature of the evolutionary process. We basically call any light-sensing organ an “eye”, but animals have eyes that perform radically different functions. How eyes work is a function Read More

A Minor Post, Adaptation, Articles, Convergence, Divergence, Fossil Data, Interactions, Photography, Uncategorized

Food is personal, sometimes ethical, but rarely political

Posted 15 Jan 2016 / 0

Image courtesy of Nick Gray via Wikimedia Commons The Chronicle of Higher Education “The Vegetarian Lesson” This article by Chad Lavin neatly distills ideas and issues that I have been grappling with for more than half my life. As a current-day ecologist who was a vegetarian more than a decade before I took my first ecology course, Read More

A Minor Post, Anthropogenic Change, Articles, Behavior, Belief, Cooperation, Food, Parasitism, Political Science, Predation, Public Policy, Resource Consumption, Uncategorized

How do we know when people are actually happy?

Posted 15 Jan 2016 / 0

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Science “Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness” This paper was published back in March, but I just discovered it. I am somewhat fascinated by psychological studies of happiness, because happiness is so hard to pin down. What is happiness, and can we rely on people to accurately report how Read More

A Minor Post, Articles, Behavior, Belief, Data Limitation, Emotion, Happiness, Psychology, Uncategorized

Understanding [culture + multilevel selection] = potential for Sustainability

Posted 13 Jan 2016 / 0

People’s Climate Change March photo courtesy of South Bend Voice via Wikimedia Commons There’s a really important new paper out entitled “A multilevel evolutionary framework for sustainability analysis“, due to be published in the journal Ecology and Society. Although it is not yet published, you can check out a pre-print via Michelle Kline’s site. (UPDATE: Read More

A Minor Post, Articles, Cultural Evolution, Multilevel Selection, Social Norms, Sustainability

Is there a trade-off between reproduction and creativity?

Posted 12 Jan 2016 / 0

One of the ideas that I am exploring in my work-in-progress book Breeders, Propagators, & Creators is that human beings face a fundamental trade-off between three activities: Breeding: behaviors that lead to the production of offpsring (which might — but does not necessarily — include parenting); Propagating: behaviors that spread existing cultural ideas; and Creating: behaviors that introduce Read More

A Major Post, Behavior, Breeders, Propagators, & Creators, Cultural Evolution, Data Limitation, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Human Evolution, Hypothesis Testing, Memetic Fitness, Reproductive Fitness, Sex and Reproduction, Sociology

Would a “labor economy” lead to different outcomes than the “capital economy”?

Posted 11 Jan 2016 / 0

Evonomics “A Simple Way to Decrease Income Inequality” I am intrigued by the idea that measurements of economic success impact our economic decisions and therefore our economic outcomes. A persistent obsession with capital has created an economic system that responds to capital. But what if employment condition — “labor” — was the fundamental unit of Read More

A Minor Post, Belief, Cultural Evolution, Economic sustainability, Economics, Ethics, Political Science, Public Policy, Social Norms, Web

Clever study shows how cooperative bacteria sanction — and therefore exclude — cheaters

Posted 08 Jan 2016 / 0

ScienceDaily “Cooperating bacteria isolate cheaters” This kind of study is where the field exploring how cooperation evolves should be headed: model predictions are verified by actual microbial microcosms, but the interactions of those microcosms are manipulated by genetically-engineering variation in behavior (what this article calls “synthetic ecology”). This approach helps overcome a common problem faced Read More

A Minor Post, Altruism, Competition, Cooperation, Methods, Microbial Ecology, Partner Choice, Reciprocity, Web

Can understanding cooperation lead to higher-yield crops?

Posted 07 Jan 2016 / 0

The Scientist “The Evolution of Cooperation” Starting with the title, this short article is not bringing anything all that new to the existing literature on how cooperation evolves. But once I realized that this piece was really about the direction of Denison’s research on rhizobia, the rest of the basic background made a lot more Read More

A Minor Post, Coevolution, Competition, Cooperation, Host-Pathogen Evolution, Mutualism, Parasitism, Punishment, Reciprocity, Web