The University of Sussex

When in Rome... A test of Boyd and Richerson's conformist transmission model

Julie C. Coultas

Do humans have a predisposition to imitate the most common behaviour? A test of Boyd and Richerson's (1985, 1991) conformist transmission model was undertaken using 105 first year psychology undergraduates (separated into 8 groups) in a computer practical class. A normally rare behaviour was modelled by a number of naive models. As each subject entered the laboratory the proportion of others modelling the rare behaviour and the behaviour of the newcomer were recorded. Logistic regression indicated that proportion of individuals modelling the rare behaviour was a significant predictor of imitation. No subject imitated the behaviour when the initial group size was three. Thirty one per cent of subjects imitated the behaviour when the initial group size was five and no subject imitated the behaviour when the proportion producing the behaviour was less than seventy one per cent. Phenomena such as this are discussed in terms of their contribution to an explanation of human cooperative behaviour.


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