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A non-equilibrium neutral model for analysing cultural change

Kandler, A. & Sherman, S. (2013). A non-equilibrium neutral model for analysing cultural change. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 330, pp. 18-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2013.03.006


Neutral evolution is a frequently used model to analyse changes in frequencies of cultural variants over time. Variants are chosen to be copied according to their relative frequency and new variants are introduced by a process of random mutation. Here we present a non-equilibrium neutral model which accounts for temporally varying population sizes and mutation rates and makes it possible to analyse the cultural system under consideration at any point in time. This framework gives an indication whether observed changes in the frequency distributions of a set of cultural variants between two time points are consistent with the random copying hypothesis. We find that the likelihood of the existence of the observed assemblage at the end of the considered time period (expressed by the probability of the observed number of cultural variants present in the population during the whole period under neutral evolution) is a powerful indicator of departures from neutrality. Further, we study the effects of frequency-dependent selection on the evolutionary trajectories and present a case study of change in the decoration of pottery in early Neolithic Central Europe. Based on the framework developed we show that neutral evolution is not an adequate description of the observed changes in frequency.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Theoretical Biology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Theoretical Biology, Volume 330, 7 August 2013, Pages 18–25,
Publisher Keywords: Neutral model; Wright–Fisher model; Markov chains; Conformity; Linear pottery culture
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Mathematics
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