Publication Detail

Strategic Social Learning and the Population Dynamics of Human Behavior: The Game of Go

UCD-ITS-RP-14-86

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Suggested Citation:
Beheim, Bret, Calvin Thigpen, Richard Mcelreath (2014) Strategic Social Learning and the Population Dynamics of Human Behavior: The Game of Go. Evolution and Human Behavior 35 (5), 351 - 357

Human culture is widely believed to undergo evolution, via mechanisms rooted in the nature of human cognition. A number of theories predict the kinds of human learning strategies, as well as the population dynamics that result from their action. There is little work, however, that quantitatively examines the evidence for these strategies and resulting cultural evolution within human populations. One of the obstacles is the lack of individual-level data with which to link transmission events to larger cultural dynamics. Here, we address this problem with a rich quantitative database from the East Asian board game known as Go. We draw from a large archive of Go games spanning the last six decades of professional play, and find evidence that the evolutionary dynamics of particular cultural variants are driven by a mix of individual and social learning processes. Particular players vary dramatically in their sensitivity to population knowledge, which also varies by age and nationality. The dynamic patterns of opening Go moves are consistent with an ancient, ongoing arms race within the game itself.