Reputation Management and Cultural Evolution

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Hugo Mercier Researcher, Département d’études cognitives, Institut Jean Nicod, ENS, EHESS, PSL University, CNRS Paris France

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Sociologists and social psychologists have long seen reputation management as an important human motivation. More recently, evolutionary analyses have helped understand the function of reputation management, demonstrating the fitness consequences of being thought of as dominant, moral, or competent. Here, I argue that reputation management likely plays an important, but understudied, role in cultural evolution – whether one takes the perspective of dual inheritance theory or of cultural attraction theory. I illustrate the importance of reputation management through its role in the spread of non-actionable beliefs – beliefs which have few or no behavioral consequences, but which constitute a large part of culture.

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