How cultural evolutionary theory can inform social psychology and vice versa


Cultural evolutionary theory is an interdisciplinary field in which human culture is viewed as a Darwinian process of variation, competition, and inheritance, and the tools, methods, and theories developed by evolutionary biologists to study genetic evolution are adapted to study cultural change. It is argued here that an integration of the theories and findings of mainstream social psychology and of cultural evolutionary theory can be mutually beneficial. Social psychology provides cultural evolution with a set of empirically verified microevolutionary cultural processes, such as conformity, model-based biases, and content biases, that are responsible for specific patterns of cultural change. Cultural evolutionary theory provides social psychology with ultimate explanations for, and an understanding of the population-level consequences of, many social psychological phenomena, such as social learning, conformity, social comparison, and intergroup processes, as well as linking social psychology with other social science disciplines such as cultural anthropology, archaeology, and sociology.

Psychological Review 116, 929–952.