The evolution of conformist transmission in social learning when the environment changes periodically

Wataru Nakahashi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Conformity is often observed in human social learning. Social learners preferentially imitate the majority or most common behavior in many situations, though the strength of conformity varies with the situation. Why has such a psychological tendency evolved? I investigate this problem by extending a standard model of social learning evolution with infinite environmental states (Feldman, M.W., Aoki, K., Kumm, J., 1996. Individual versus social learning: evolutionary analysis in a fluctuating environment. Anthropol. Sci. 104, 209-231) to include conformity bias. I mainly focus on the relationship between the strength of conformity bias that evolves and environmental stability, which is one of the most important factors in the evolution of social learning. Using the evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) approach, I show that conformity always evolves when environmental stability and the cost of adopting a wrong behavior are small, though environmental stability and the cost of individual learning both negatively affect the strength of conformity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-66
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Aug
Externally publishedYes


  • Conformist transmission
  • Environmental stability
  • Evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS)
  • Individual learning
  • Infinite environmental state model
  • Social learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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