Faking the News: Intentional Guided Variation Reflects Cognitive Biases in Transmission Chains Without Recall

Published on Oct 10, 2018
· DOI :10.5334/csci.109
Joseph M. Stubbersfield5
Estimated H-index: 5
(Durham University),
Jamshid J. Tehrani12
Estimated H-index: 12
(Durham University),
Emma Flynn24
Estimated H-index: 24
(Durham University)
Two potential forms of mutation in cultural evolution have been identified: ‘copying error’, where learners make random modifications to a behaviour and ‘guided variation’ where learners makes non-random modifications. While copying error is directly analogous to genetic mutation, guided variation is a specifically cultural process that does not have a close parallel in biological evolution. It has been suggested that the decision-making processes underlying intentional guided variation may produce similar results to cultural transmission as both are likely to be influenced by cognitive biases. This study uses a unique linear transmission chain design, without any influence of recall, to examine intentional guided variation. Participants were asked to alter news stories however they wished in order to make them more interesting, the product of their modification was then passed to the next participant and so on down the chain. The products of the chains were then compared with the original material so as to assess any underlying biases in the changed content. Through this process of guided variation, original material which scored low for bias-exploiting content significantly increased in at least one known content bias, whereas original material which scored high for bias-exploiting content was not significantly altered in this respect.
  • References (22)
  • Citations (3)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
13 Citations
5 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Joseph M. Stubbersfield (Durham University)H-Index: 5
#2Jamshid J. Tehrani (Durham University)H-Index: 12
Last. Emma Flynn (Durham University)H-Index: 24
view all 3 authors...
This study used urban legends to examine the effects of a cognitive bias for content which evokes higher levels of emotion on cumulative recall. As with previous research into content biases, a linear transmission chain design was used. One-hundred and twenty participants, aged 16–52, were asked to read and then recall urban legends that provoked both high levels and low levels of emotion and were both positively and negatively valenced. The product of this recall was presented to the next parti...
9 CitationsSource
#1Laurel Fogarty (UCL: University College London)H-Index: 13
#2Nicole Creanza (Stanford University)H-Index: 13
Last. Marcus W. Feldman (Stanford University)H-Index: 84
view all 3 authors...
Cultural traits originate through creative or innovative processes, which might be crucial to understanding how culture evolves and accumulates. However, because of its complexity and apparent subjectivity, creativity has remained largely unexplored as the dynamic underpinning of cultural evolution. Here, we explore the approach to innovation commonly taken in theoretical studies of cultural evolution and discuss its limitations. Drawing insights from cognitive science, psychology, archeology, a...
33 CitationsSource
#1Joseph M. Stubbersfield (Durham University)H-Index: 5
#2Jamshid J. Tehrani (Durham University)H-Index: 12
Last. Emma Flynn (Durham University)H-Index: 24
view all 3 authors...
This study uses urban legends to examine the effects of the social information bias and survival information bias on cultural transmission across three phases of transmission: the choose-to-receive phase, the encode-and-retrieve phase, and the choose-to-transmit phase. In line with previous research into content biases, a linear transmission chain design with 60 participants aged 18–52 was used to examine the encode-and-retrieve phase, while participants were asked to rank their interest in read...
29 CitationsSource
In one conception of cultural evolution, the evolutionary success of cultural units that are transmitted from individual to individual is determined by forces of cultural selection. Here we argue that it is helpful to distinguish between several distinct phases of the transmission process in which cultural selection can operate. As a simple model we distinguish between a choose-to-receive phase, an encode-and-retrieve phase, and a choose-to-transmit phase. Proposed forces of cultural selection, ...
38 CitationsSource
#1Lara A. Wood (Durham University)H-Index: 9
#2Rachel L. Kendal (Durham University)H-Index: 21
Last. Emma Flynn (Durham University)H-Index: 24
view all 3 authors...
This review investigates the presence of young children’s model-based cultural transmission biases in social learning, arguing that such biases are adaptive and flexible. Section 1 offers five propositions regarding the presence and direction of model-based transmission biases in young children’s copying of a model. Section 2 discusses the cognitive abilities required for differing model-based biases and tracks their development in early childhood. Section 3 suggests future areas of research inc...
58 CitationsSource
#1Joseph Henrich (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 62
#2James Broesch (UW: University of Wisconsin-Madison)H-Index: 11
Unlike other animals, humans are heavily dependent on cumulative bodies of culturally learned information. Selective processes operating on this socially learned information can produce complex, functionally integrated, behavioural repertoires—cultural adaptations. To understand such non-genetic adaptations, evolutionary theorists propose that (i) natural selection has favoured the emergence of psychological biases for learning from those individuals most likely to possess adaptive information, ...
148 CitationsSource
#1Jamshid J. Tehrani (SFU: Simon Fraser University)H-Index: 12
#2Mark Collard (SFU: Simon Fraser University)H-Index: 34
Last. Stephen Shennan (SFU: Simon Fraser University)H-Index: 41
view all 3 authors...
Phylogenetic approaches to culture have shed new light on the role played by population dispersals in the spread and diversification of cultural traditions. However, the fact that cultural inheritance is based on separate mechanisms from genetic inheritance means that socially transmitted traditions have the potential to diverge from population histories. Here, we suggest that associations between these two systems can be reconstructed using techniques developed to study cospeciation between hos...
44 CitationsSource
#1Joseph Henrich (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 62
#2Steven J. Heine (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 48
Last. Ara Norenzayan (UBC: University of British Columbia)H-Index: 40
view all 3 authors...
To understand human psychology, behavioural scientists must stop doing most of their experiments on Westerners, argue Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan.
574 CitationsSource
#1Fiona M. Jordan (MPG: Max Planck Society)H-Index: 12
#2Russell D. Gray (University of Auckland)H-Index: 52
Last. Ruth MaceH-Index: 49
view all 4 authors...
The nature of social life in human prehistory is elusive, yet knowing how kinship systems evolve is critical for understanding population history and cultural diversity. Post-marital residence rules specify sex-specific dispersal and kin association, influencing the pattern of genetic markers across populations. Cultural phylogenetics allows us to practise 'virtual archaeology' on these aspects of social life that leave no trace in the archaeological record. Here we show that early Austronesian ...
118 CitationsSource
#1Kim Peters (University of Exeter)H-Index: 16
#2Yoshihisa Kashima (University of Melbourne)H-Index: 43
Last. Anna E. Clark (VU: VU University Amsterdam)H-Index: 5
view all 3 authors...
There is evidence that we may he more likely to share stories about other people to the extent that they arouse emotion. If so, this emotional social talk may have important social consequences, providing the basis for many of our social beliefs and mobilising people to engage or disengage with the targets of the talk. Across three studies, we tested the situated communicability of emotional social information by examining if the ability of emotionality to increase communicability would depend o...
68 CitationsSource
Cited By3
#1Joseph M. Stubbersfield (Durham University)H-Index: 5
#2Lewis G. Dean (St And: University of St Andrews)H-Index: 5
Last. Catharine P. Cross (St And: University of St Andrews)H-Index: 10
view all 5 authors...
Moral stories are pervasive in human culture, forming the basis of religious texts, folklore, and newspaper articles. We used a linear transmission chain procedure to test three competing hypotheses: (1) that moral content in general is preferentially transmitted between individuals compared to non-moral content; (2) that negativity bias leads specifically to morally bad content being preferentially transmitted; and (3) that a bias towards pro-social information leads specifically to morally goo...
1 CitationsSource
#1Folgert Karsdorp (KNAW: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)H-Index: 4
#2Lauren Fonteyn (LEI: Leiden University)H-Index: 1
In this interdisciplinary study, we explore the understudied effects of growing cultural entrenchment on the form of stories with a long reproduction history. Drawing on insight from literary theory, theoretical linguistics, and cultural evolution theory, we argue that changes in the cultural entrenchment of fairy tales and folk stories are reflected in (small) structural ‘mutations’ in the story. More specifically, we aim to show that with the increasing familiarity of “Little Red Riding Hood”,...
#1Alberto Acerbi (TU/e: Eindhoven University of Technology)H-Index: 15
The spread of online misinformation has gained mainstream attention in recent years. This paper approaches this phenomenon from a cultural evolution and cognitive anthropology perspective, focusing on the idea that some cultural traits can be successful because their content taps into general cognitive preferences. This research involves 260 articles from media outlets included in two authoritative lists of websites known for publishing hoaxes and ‘fake news’, tracking the presence of negative c...
2 CitationsSource