Dealing with Culture as Inherited Information

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

Posted on on June 11, 2019

by Luke J. Matthews

Read More

Access further information on this document at Social-Behavioral Modeling for Complex Systems

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

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).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.