Competing cultural strategies: The evolution of religion



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Understanding the impact of culture systems and cultural evolution is integral to understanding human evolution. Cultural systems have the property of both horizontal and vertical transmission of non-genetic highly heritable cultural phenotypes. This is particularly important when group identity is related to a specific cultural phenotype, as in religious systems. This study examines the effects of the process of conversion, in which an individual’s phenotype is changed within its generational timeframe. A game-theory approach using behavioral strategies was used to model the cultural group interactions. A stochastic simulation and a deterministic analytical framework were used to model this system. Groups that used a conversion strategy outcompeted groups that used a kill strategy unless heavily constrained. The results suggest that the ability to convert may have played a substantial role in the evolution of cultural systems such as religion and government, as well as directly impacted the direction of human evolution.



Culture technique, Evolution of religion, Cultural studies, Game theory