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  The uses and abuses of tree thinking in cultural evolution

Evans, C. L., Greenhill, S. J., Watts, J., List, J.-M., Botero, C. A., Gray, R. D., et al. (2021). The uses and abuses of tree thinking in cultural evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376(1828): 2020.0056. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0056.

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 Creators:
Evans, Cara L.1, Author              
Greenhill, Simon J.1, Author              
Watts, Joseph, Author
List, Johann-Mattis1, Author              
Botero, Carlos A., Author
Gray, Russell D.1, Author              
Kirby, Kathryn1, Author              
Affiliations:
1Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society, ou_2074311              

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Free keywords: cultural evolution, phylogenetic comparative methods, cross-cultural research, cultural macro-evolution
 Abstract: Modern phylogenetic methods are increasingly being used to address questions about macro-level patterns in cultural evolution. These methods can illuminate the unobservable histories of cultural traits and identify the evolutionary drivers of trait-change over time, but their application is not without pitfalls. Here we outline the current scope of research in cultural tree thinking, highlighting a toolkit of best practices to navigate and avoid the pitfalls and ‘abuses’ associated with their application. We emphasise two principles that support the appropriate application of phylogenetic methodologies in cross-cultural research: researchers should (1) draw on multiple lines of evidence when deciding if and which types of phylogenetic methods and models are suitable for their cross-cultural data, and (2) carefully consider how different cultural traits might have different evolutionary histories across space and time. When used appropriately phylogenetic methods can provide powerful insights into the processes of evolutionary change that have shaped the broad patterns of human history.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-05-172021-07-05
 Publication Status: Published in print
 Pages: 12
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: 1. Introduction
2. Are the data appropriate for comparative phylogenetic analysis?
3. Tree construction: are phylogenetic trees accurate representations of cultural histories?
4. Mapping other cultural features to lexical trees: divergent evolutionary histories, mechanistic (un)identifiability, and model shortcomings
4.1 Do different cultural traits have different evolutionary histories?
4.2 When is the use of methods that require historical coherence justified?
4.3 What about methods that detect yet do not require tree-like structure in the data?
4.4 Are there correlations between the drivers of cross-cultural similarity that create a false impression of ‘fit’ to the language tree?
4.5 Are model shortcomings giving unwarranted precedence to tree-like inheritance patterns?
5. Conclusion
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0056
DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/a8v3e
Other: shh2882
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Project name : CALC
Grant ID : 715618
Funding program : Horizon 2020 (H2020)
Funding organization : European Commission (EC)

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Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences
  Other : Philosophical Transactions B
  Abbreviation : Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B
Source Genre: Journal
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Affiliations:
Publ. Info: London : Royal Society
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 376 (1828) Sequence Number: 2020.0056 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 0962-8436
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/963017382021_1

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Title: SocArXiv Papers
  Abbreviation : SocArXiv
Source Genre: Web Page
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Publ. Info: Ithaca, NY : Cornell University
Pages: - Volume / Issue: - Sequence Number: a8v3e Start / End Page: - Identifier: URI: https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/