Behavioural homogenization with spillovers in a normative domain

Efferson, Charles; Vogt, Sonja (2018). Behavioural homogenization with spillovers in a normative domain. Proceedings of the Royal Society. Series B - biological sciences, 285(1879) Royal Society of London 10.1098/rspb.2018.0492

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The importance of culture for human social evolution hinges largely on the extent to which culture supports outcomes that would not otherwise occur. An especially controversial claim is that social learning leads groups to coalesce around group-typical behaviours and associated social norms that spill over to shape choices in asocial settings. To test this, we conducted an experiment with 878 groups of participants in 116 communities in Sudan. Participants watched a short film and evaluated the appropriate way to behave in the situation dramatized in the film. Each session consisted of an asocial condition in which participants provided private evaluations and a social condition in which they provided public evaluations. Public evaluations allowed for social learning. Across sessions, we randomized the order of the two conditions. Public choices dramatically increased the homogeneity of normative evaluations. When the social condition was first, this homogenizing effect spilled over to subsequent asocial conditions. The asocial condition when first was thus alone in producing distinctly heterogeneous groups. Altogether, information about the choices of others led participants to converge rapidly on similar normative evaluations that continued to hold sway in subsequent asocial settings. These spillovers were at least partly owing to the combined effects of conformity and self-consistency. Conformity dominated self-consistency when the two mechanisms were in conflict, but self-consistency otherwise produced choices that persisted through time. Additionally, the tendency to conform was heterogeneous. Females conformed more than males, and conformity increased with the number of other people a decision-maker observed before making her own choice.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Vogt, Sonja Brigitte


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Royal Society of London




Simona Richard

Date Deposited:

25 Jun 2019 07:28

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 17:09

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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