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Social interaction influences the evolution of cognitive biases for language

Roberts, S. G., Thompson, B., & Smith, K. (2014). Social interaction influences the evolution of cognitive biases for language. In E. A. Cartmill, S. G. Roberts, & H. Lyn (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (pp. 278-285). Singapore: World Scientific. doi:0.1142/9789814603638_0036.
Models of cultural evolution demonstrate that the link between individual biases and population- level phenomena can be obscured by the process of cultural transmission (Kirby, Dowman, & Griffiths, 2007). However, recent extensions to these models predict that linguistic diversity will not emerge and that learners should evolve to expect little linguistic variation in their input (Smith & Thompson, 2012). We demonstrate that this result derives from assumptions that privilege certain kinds of social interaction by exploring a range of alternative social models. We find several evolutionary routes to linguistic diversity, and show that social interaction not only influences the kinds of biases which could evolve to support language, but also the effects those biases have on a linguistic system. Given the same starting situation, the evolution of biases for language learning and the distribution of linguistic variation are affected by the kinds of social interaction that a population privileges.
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