Dealing with Culture as Inherited Information

Published in: Social-Behavioral Modeling for Complex Systems, Chapter 8 (2019). doi: 10.1002/9781119485001.ch8

Posted on RAND.org on June 11, 2019

by Luke J. Matthews

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Utility maximization and related optimization algorithms are important features of social-behavioral models, but cultural (and genetic) inheritance places constraints on, enables, and sets the context for any such maximizing behavior. It makes sense to represent culture as important "inherited information." Inheritance processes create culture-related correlations in empirical data ("Galton's problem") that present challenges for standard statistical models like multiple regression. In this chapter, I demonstrate that we can now resolve such problems with new computational methods. It is therefore time to routinely incorporate cultural considerations in social-behavioral modeling. Doing so, however, will require a good deal of cultural data that has been rarely collected (e.g. reliable data on religion and values).

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