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Group size and cultural complexity


Arising from M. Derex, M.-P. Beugin, B. Godelle & M. Raymond Nature 503, 389–391 (2013)

A decade ago, Henrich1 proposed group size as a driver of cultural complexity. Derex et al.2 now present experimental results they say support this ‘group size hypothesis’ by seemingly showing that larger groups perform better than smaller groups under imitation-based cultural evolution. Our reanalysis of their experimental data, however, shows that larger groups actually perform worse than smaller groups. Thus, contrary to their claim, their data are consistent with empirical evidence discounting the group size hypothesis for non-food producing societies3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. There is a Reply to this Brief Communication Arising by Derex, M. et al. Nature 511, (2014).

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Figure 1: For each group size, observed and expected number of groups drawing only the simple artefact on the last step of the experiment.


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D.R. and C.A. contributed equally to this Brief Communications Arising.

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Correspondence to Dwight Read.

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Andersson, C., Read, D. Group size and cultural complexity. Nature 511, E1 (2014).

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