Predictive Models of Cultural Information Transmission

Predictive Models of Cultural Information Transmission

M. Afzal Upal (Defence R&D, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-236-7.ch004
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This chapter will critically review existing approaches to the modeling transmission of cultural information and advocate a new approach based on a new generation of agent-based social simulation systems. It will outline how such systems can be useful for studying the formation of patterns of widely shared cultural beliefs.
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Intuitively, most people seem to understand the term ‘culture’ as it is used in everyday conversation1; however, it remains a notoriously difficult concept to pin down precisely. A 1952 review identified 164 definitions of culture (Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 1952) and the situation has not improved since. Modern cultural scientists often resort to metaphors such as an onion or an iceberg to define culture. The idea is that culture is a hierarchy consisting of multiple layers, many of which are hidden from view. For instance, Hofstede’s cultural onion (Figure 1) consists of publicly observable symbols−gestures, pictures, words/jargon, hairstyles, and flags−as the outermost layer. Heroes−idealized people, dead or alive, seen as possessing highly prized characteristics−form the next layer. Rituals−group activities seen as essential by the group but superfluous to the achievement of the actual goal, carried out for their own sake−form the third layer. The core of a culture consists of shared beliefs about how things should be.

Figure 1.

Hofstede’s cultural onion

Each of the layers can be further deconstructed into multiple sublayers. For instance, the privately-held widely-shared beliefs of a cultural group can be further divided into beliefs about the social world, beliefs about the physical world, and beliefs about other groups, etc. Another source of complexity is the fact that aspects at any level and sublevel are related to aspects at other levels and sublevels. Elaborating this view, Bloch (2000), argues that “cultures form consistent wholes … every element−wherever it came from−was moulded to fit in with the others because of a psychological need for integration which led to an organically patterned ‘world view’” (p. 197).

Despite the complexity, understanding culture has been important for several disciplines including anthropology, sociology, and social and cross-cultural psychology. The work in these fields has contributed to our understanding of certain aspects of culture, for instance, we have several quantitative measures of cultural differences among a variety of nations (Hofstede 1994). However, this work has been criticized for failing to develop computationally predictive models of culture that would allow us to explain the macro-level cultural patterns in terms of individual level cognitive tendencies and make testable predictions about the future direction of a society (Gilbert & Conte 1995; Laland & Odling-Smee 2000). The challenge then is to design models that can not only account for multiple layers of culture and the rich connections between these layers, without abstracting away the complexity, but are also computationally predictive at the same time.

A complete theory of culture may also be able to satisfactorily explain how cultural layers come to be formed. Historically, we know that cultural patterns seem to pass like waves on the shores of time with each new wave rearranging the lines made by the previous waves. For instance, last few centuries of Western European art history is a story of dynamism with one trend of cultural innovation following another. Any two waves that are temporally contiguous in history appear to have a paradoxical relationship with each other. The new trend is both defined in opposition to the old one and as a continuation and improvement of the old trend. Visual arts are certainly not the only aspect of culture to exhibit this pattern. Other cultural trends including religious doctrines, pop cultural trends, and patterns of political thought also appear to evolve similarly. Thus Lutheranism builds on Catholicism while it also reforms it and seems to stand in opposition to it. Postmodernist art builds on Modernist art while at the same time redefining it. Explaining these pattern of stability and change in the evolution of cultural trends is a question of central importance for the social sciences.

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Georgi Stojanov
Chapter 1
R. Keith Sawyer
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The Science of Social Emergence
Chapter 2
Christopher Goldspink, Robert Kay
This chapter critically examines our theoretical understanding of the dialectical relationship between emergent social structures and agent... Sample PDF
Agent Cognitive Capabilities and Orders of Social Emergence
Chapter 3
Joseph C. Bullington
Social interaction represents a powerful new locus of research in the quest to build more truly human-like artificial agents. The work in this area... Sample PDF
Agents and Social Interaction: Insights from Social Psychology
Chapter 4
M. Afzal Upal
This chapter will critically review existing approaches to the modeling transmission of cultural information and advocate a new approach based on a... Sample PDF
Predictive Models of Cultural Information Transmission
Chapter 5
Jorge A. Romero
Despite the popularity of agents for the information technology infrastructure, questions remain because it is not clear what do e-business agents... Sample PDF
Interaction of Agent in E-Business: A Look at Different Sources
Chapter 6
Adam J. Conover
This chapter presents a description of ongoing experimental research into the emergent properties of multi-agent communication in “temporally... Sample PDF
A Simulation of Temporally Variant Agent Interaction via Passive Inquiry
Chapter 7
Richard Schilling
This chapter presents a generalized messaging infrastructure that can be used for distributed agent systems. The principle of agent feedback... Sample PDF
Agent Feedback Messaging: A Messaging Infrastructure for Distributed Message Delivery
Chapter 8
Yu Zhang, Mark Lewis, Christine Drennon, Michael Pellon, Coleman
Multi-agent systems have been used to model complex social systems in many domains. The entire movement of multi-agent paradigm was spawned, at... Sample PDF
Modeling Cognitive Agents for Social Systems and a Simulation in Urban Dynamics
Chapter 9
Scott Watson, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Wan Ching (Steve) Ho, Rafal Dawidowicz
This chapter discusses certain issues in the development of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) populated by autonomous social agents, with... Sample PDF
Developing Relationships Between Autonomous Agents: Promoting Pro-Social Behaviour Through Virtual Learning Environments Part I
Chapter 10
Martin Takác
In this chapter, we focus on the issue of understanding in various types of agents. Our main goal is to build up notions of meanings and... Sample PDF
Construction of Meanings in Biological and Artificial Agents
Chapter 11
Myriam Abramson
In heterogeneous multi-agent systems, where human and non-human agents coexist, intelligent proxy agents can help smooth out fundamental... Sample PDF
Training Coordination Proxy Agents Using Reinforcement Learning
Chapter 12
Deborah V. Duong
The first intelligent agent social model, in 1991, used tags with emergent meaning to simulate the emergence of institutions based on the principles... Sample PDF
The Generative Power of Signs: The Importance of the Autonomous Perception of Tags to the Strong Emergence of Institutions
Chapter 13
Josefina Sierra, Josefina Santibáñez
This chapter addresses the problem of the acquisition of the syntax of propositional logic. An approach based on general purpose cognitive... Sample PDF
Propositional Logic Syntax Acquisition Using Induction and Self-Organisation
Chapter 14
Giovanni Vincenti, James Braman
Emotions influence our everyday lives, guiding and misguiding us. They lead us to happiness and love, but also to irrational acts. Artificial... Sample PDF
Hybrid Emotionally Aware Mediated Multiagency
Chapter 15
Samuel G. Collins, Goran Trajkovski
In this chapter, we give an overview of the results of a Human-Robot Interaction experiment, in a near zerocontext environment. We stimulate the... Sample PDF
Mapping Hybrid Agencies Through Multiagent Systems
Chapter 16
Scott Watson, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Wan Ching (Steve) Ho, Rafal Dawidowicz
This chapter is a continuation from Part I, which has described contemporary psychological descriptions of bullying in primary schools and two... Sample PDF
Developing Relationships Between Autonomous Agents: Promoting Pro-Social Behaviour Through Virtual Learning Environments Part II
Chapter 17
Mario Paolucci, Rosaria Conte
This chapter is focused on social reputation as a fundamental mechanism in the diffusion and possibly evolution of socially desirable behaviour... Sample PDF
Reputation: Social Transmission for Partner Selection
Chapter 18
Adam J. Conover
This chapter concludes a two part series which examines the emergent properties of multi-agent communication in “temporally asynchronous”... Sample PDF
A Simulation of Temporally Variant Agent Interaction via Belief Promulgation
Chapter 19
David B. Newlin
Following the discovery in Rhesus monkeys of “mirror neurons” that fire during both execution and observation of motor behavior, human studies have... Sample PDF
The Human Mirror Neuron System
Chapter 20
Eric Baumer, Bill Tomlinson
This chapter presents an argument that the process of emergence is the converse of the process of abstraction. Emergence involves complex behavior... Sample PDF
Relationships Between the Processes of Emergence and Abstraction in Societies
Chapter 21
Vern R. Walker
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Emergent Reasoning Structures in Law
Chapter 22
Theodor Richardson
Network Intrusion Detection Systems (NIDS) are designed to differentiate malicious traffic, from normal traf- fic, on a network system to detect the... Sample PDF
Agents in Security: A Look at the Use of Agents in Host-Based Monitoring and Protection and Network Intrusion Detection
Chapter 23
Michael J. North, Thomas R. Howe, Nick Collier, Eric Tatara, Jonathan Ozik, Charles Macal
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Search as a Tool for Emergence
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