The Origin and Evolution of Cultures

by Robert Boyd, Peter J. Richerson

Series: Evolution and Cognition

Oxford presents, in one convenient and coherently organized volume, 20 influential but until now relatively inaccessible articles that form the backbone of Boyd and Richerson's path-breaking work on evolution and culture. Their interdisciplinary research is based on two notions. First, that culture is crucial for understanding human behavior; unlike other organisms, socially transmitted beliefs, attitudes, and values heavily influence our behavior. Secondly, culture is part of biology: the capacity to acquire and transmit culture is a derived component of human psychology, and the contents of culture are deeply intertwined with our biology. Culture then is a pool of information, stored in the brains of the population that gets transmitted from one brain to another by social learning processes. Therefore, culture can account for both our outstanding ecological success as well as the maladaptations that characterize much of human behavior. The interest in this collection will span anthropology, psychology, economics, philosophy, and political science.

  • Oxford University Press; January 2005
  • ISBN: 9780195347449
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Origin and Evolution of Cultures
  • Series: Evolution and Cognition
  • Author: Robert Boyd; Peter J. Richerson
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

There is much to learn from the work of Boyd and Richerson, and the initiative to bring together some of their scattered papers in this volume is laudable. Many professional anthrologists, biologists, philosophers and psychologists interested in the study of culture and the evolution of mind and behavior will benefit from it. --Metapsychology
"This book is a must-have for philosophers of psychology, philosophers of biology, philosophers of the social sciences, and, more generally, anybody who is interested in the evolution of mind and behavior." --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Boyd and Richerson have long set a 'gold standard' of sensible, reasonable writing on evolutionary social science...they have patiently built solid, competent, genuinely predictive models of how humans evolved and how culture evolved as humanity's special class of behavior...they are genuine authorities on both biology and culture...the authors have produced a superb companion volume, Not by Genes Alone, which makes their work accessible to all."--CHOICE