Retorica e logica. Le due culture by Giulio Preti

By Giulio Preti

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Example text

So folks in Peoria, where it’s cold, wear warmer clothing and have a word for snow, while people in Pongo-Pongo wear next to nothing and have never heard of a frightfully cold substance that lies about on the ground. Sociobiologists claim that so-called “cultural” variation is the result of an interaction between genes and environment. The way in which a genetic trait manifests itself is not heritable; instead it is the product of a specific interaction. Uproot a Chinese man and fly him to Los Angeles.

But such a bias must be in place, and be used by many people, for this period of very rapid adoption to take place. The fact that novelties are a ubiquitous component of any culture— just think of the constant turnover of fads and technology-inspired behaviors and ideas—suggests that cultural transmission is an important influence on how people in a group come to share their beliefs and values. The implication of these models is that the social transmission of information is important indeed and should not be cast aside as a trivial footnote to evolution.

Typically this bias could favor traits exhibited by prestigious individuals or by the majority of those observed from the individual’s social group (a process called “conformist transmission”). But such a bias must be in place, and be used by many people, for this period of very rapid adoption to take place. The fact that novelties are a ubiquitous component of any culture— just think of the constant turnover of fads and technology-inspired behaviors and ideas—suggests that cultural transmission is an important influence on how people in a group come to share their beliefs and values.

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