Cultural transmission on the taskscape: Exploring the effects of taskscape visibility on cultural diversity

L. S. Premo, Gilbert B. Tostevin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Culturally transmitted behavior can be structured in its performance both geographically and temporally, in terms of where and when implements are made and used on the landscape (what Ingold calls "the taskscape"). Yet cultural transmission theory has not yet explored the consequences of behaviors transmitted differently due to their enactment at different taskscape locations, what Tostevin calls "taskscape visibility." Here, we use computer simulations to explore how taskscape visibility and forager mobility affect the diversity of two selectively neutral culturally transmitted traits within a single population of social learners. The trait that can be transmitted from residential bases only (lower taskscape visibility) shows greater diversity than the trait that can be transmitted from residential bases and logistical camps (higher taskscape visibility). In addition, increased logistical mobility has a positive effect on the diversity of the trait with the lower taskscape visibility while it generally shows little to no effect on the diversity of the trait with higher taskscape visibility. Without an appreciation for the ways in which taskscape visibility and mobility can structure cultural transmission in space and through time, the difference in the observed equilibrium diversity levels of the two traits might be incorrectly interpreted as resulting from qualitatively different forms of biased cultural transmission. The results of our simulation experiment suggest that researchers may need to take the taskscape visibility into account when inferring cultural transmission from archaeological data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0161766
JournalPloS one
Volume11
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2016

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