Prestige is a popular topic right now, but little of the surrounding theory has been empirically verified. Here we test the prediction that prestige hierarchies influence copying provided that they (i) contain indirect information about skill, and (ii) direct information about skill is unavailable. Both these predictions (and several others) are verified. This experiment was done in collaboration with Charlotte Brand and Alex Mesoudi at Exeter and the experiments were conducted on Dallinger.
Part of a special issue on Life History and Learning, this paper explores the coevolutionary relationship between information gathering (learning), information storage (memory) and a dedicated period of early learning (childhood). It also sets out in detail how "experimental evolutionary simulations" work, as well as what their strengths and limitations are. This work was done in collaboration with Tom Griffiths and Jordan Suchow.
This paper explores the interaction of developmental plasticity (e.g. learning) and genetic change in the evolution of complex traits. Quite a bit of work has established that plasticity and genetic change can interact, but here we ask what kinds of genetic change we can expect when plasticity is having an influence. Our results have implications for the evolutionary process in general, but particularly for complex learned traits like language. This work was done in collaboration with Tom Griffiths and Jordan Suchow, and is mostly theory, but also includes an "experimental evolutionary simulation" conducted via Dallinger.
This paper sets out a new vision for how religion can support prosociality in human populations. Current work emphasizes the role of gods as punishers of transgressors, however in this paper we argue that gods can also inspire cooperative behavior through their own generosity. We do this by linking religious figures to human prestige hierarchies and features of the mammalian autonomic nervous system.
This paper uses a simulation of the scientific process to understand how the adoption of Bayesian updating via "posterior passing" could change how knowledge accumulates. Because this is a relatively unfamiliar topic to many its also written to be a gentle introduction to Bayesian analysis and MCMC more generally. This work was done in collaboration with Charlotte Brand, James Ounsley and Daniel van der Post.