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Using Social Network Analysis to Study the Dynamics of Cultural Transmission

Humans are superlative when it comes to obtaining information, both socially and asocially. Evolutionary theory concerning human culture predicts innate heuristic rules to help optimize the transmission and intake of correct information. These rules include learning from individuals perceived as prestigious, successful, or similar to you. Most research in this field is theoretical; with few studies empirically testing the hypotheses that arise from evolutionary models. In this talk, I will present ongoing research applying exponential random graph models to empirically test these theories of cultural transmission in large undergraduate classrooms. The use of longitudinal social network data to test these theories is a novel approach, and the collection from a large undergraduate classroom has proven to be a fruitful method. The methods are demonstrated on a study of 200 undergraduate biology students. Additionally, a larger follow-up study that included the collection of social learning biomarkers will be introduced.