Seminar: Cultural evolution in the digital age

  • Date: Aug 30, 2022
  • Time: 03:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Alberto Acerbi, Brunel University London
  • Location: Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin
  • Room: Small Conference Room
  • Host: Center for Humans and Machines
Seminar: Cultural evolution in the digital age

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Alberto Acerbi, Brunel University London

Cultural evolution in the digital age

In this talk, Alberto Acerbi will explore how cultural evolution can provide a useful framework to understand the production, transmission, and selection of information in contemporary online, digital, media.

He will touch topics such as how online media expanded the network where cultural transmission happens; how it changed the fidelity of transmission; and how this possibly impacts cumulative cultural evolution, i.e., the increasing complexity of cultural traits from one generation to another.

He will discuss more in detail how the current widespread narrative about online misinformation is not consistent with a cultural evolutionary view of social influence, according to which humans are not overly gullible, but they can be better characterised as wary learners. The (limited) spread of online misinformation can be understood in this perspective by focusing on the idea that some cultural traits can be successful because their content taps into general cognitive biases. Misinformation, being less constrained by reality than true information, can be manufactured to appeal to these cognitive biases.

Alberto Acerbi is a lecturer in psychology at the Centre for Culture and Evolution at Brunel University London. His research utilises evolutionary and cognitive approaches to shed light on contemporary cultural phenomena. More recently, he became particularly interested in using cultural evolution theory to study specifically the effect of digital/online media, and he published a book for Oxford University Press on the topic, “Cultural evolution in the digital age”.

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