Chapter 14THE EMERGENCE OF SOCIAL SCHEMAS AND LOSSY CONCEPTUAL INFORMATION NETWORKS: HOW INFORMATION TRANSMISSION CAN LEAD TO THE APPARENT “EMERGENCE” OF CULTURE

Justin E. Lane1,2

1Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Oxford, 64 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6PN, UK

2LEVYNA, Ústav religionistiky, Masaryk University, Veveří 28, Brno 602 00, Czech Republic

SUMMARY

Social scientists and humanities scholars often treat culture as non-reducible phenomena that are incompatible with scientific study or reductionism (Pyysiäinen, 2001). This has led to claims that culture is an emergent property of human social groups (Sawyer, 2005). This chapter seeks to address these claims using an agent-based model. Particularly, it presents a model of information transmission in human social groups that generates similar patterns of multi-agent consensus from the interactions of individual agents as observed in real-world human groups. As such, it argues that the claims of cultural emergence suggesting sort of strong or “spooky” emergence (Maier, 2014) are unsound and theoretically inoperable in some cases. However, we can reframe cultural emergence as the result of interactions between complex dynamic agents, and we can approximate cultural emergence using a lossy intersection of all beliefs held by the agents in a group. Doing so still results in an emergent “culture” that is irreducible to the “sum of its parts” but still on a subset of ...

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