Analogy as a catalyst for cumulative cultural evolution


Analogies, broadly defined, map novel concepts onto familiar concepts, making them essential for perception, reasoning, and communication. We argue that analogy-building served a critical role in the evolution of cumulative culture by allowing humans to learn and transmit complex behavioural sequences that would otherwise be too cognitively demanding or opaque to acquire. The emergence of a protolanguage consisting of simple labels would have provided early humans with the cognitive tools to build explicit analogies and to communicate them to others. This focus on analogy-building can shed new light on the coevolution of cognition and culture and addresses recent calls for better integration of the field of cultural evolution with cognitive science.

Trends in Cognitive Sciences 25, 450-461.