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Cultural evolutionary production of human psychobiological variation and function

Uchiyama, Ryutaro (2021) Cultural evolutionary production of human psychobiological variation and function. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004315


This thesis presents a framework for understanding how the organisation of the human mind and its psychobiological basis are produced through the mechanisms of cultural evolution. It foregrounds three characteristics of the human mind: its cross-cultural variation, its responsiveness to environmental inputs, and its collective construction. Each of these characteristics has been studied on its own, but cultural evolution serves as an integrative theoretical framework for understanding how they relate to each other. A key insight is how the developmental environment is shaped extensively by cumulative cultural evolution, allowing culture and nervous system to be meshed in a functionally productive and highly evolvable coupling. Classical conceptions of nature and nurture are insufficient for capturing this dynamic, and instead reinforce conceptual and methodological barriers that obscure the effect of culture. This thesis articulates a theoretical interface that allows a number of insights derived from cultural evolutionary theory to be productively employed within the psychological sciences—fields such as psychology, behavioural biology, behavioural genetics, developmental science, and cognitive neuroscience. Chapter 1 briefly introduces the subsequent chapters, and Chapter 2 charts the overall theoretical framework of the thesis. Chapter 3 attempts a theoretical integration of cultural evolution and behavioural genetics in particular, offering new insights about the interpretation of genetic effects like heritability. Chapter 4 is an empirical test of a prediction given in the prior chapter, and demonstrates how cultural variance influences heritability across countries. Chapter 5 shows cross-cultural variation in the structure of internal representations using factor analysis and a questionnaire, and provides preliminary evidence that writing systems shape mental organisation. Chapter 6 proposes a theoretical integration between cultural evolution and neuroscience. Taken together, these studies give substance to a novel theoretical framework for the psychological sciences that elucidates the rich coordination of mind, biology, the developmental environment, and cultural dynamics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2021 Ryutaro Uchiyama
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Muthukrishna, Michael

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