Phil 10.26.19

The dynamics of norm change in the cultural evolution of language

  • What happens when a new social convention replaces an old one? While the possible forces favoring norm change—such as institutions or committed activists—have been identified for a long time, little is known about how a population adopts a new convention, due to the difficulties of finding representative data. Here, we address this issue by looking at changes that occurred to 2,541 orthographic and lexical norms in English and Spanish through the analysis of a large corpora of books published between the years 1800 and 2008. We detect three markedly distinct patterns in the data, depending on whether the behavioral change results from the action of a formal institution, an informal authority, or a spontaneous process of unregulated evolution. We propose a simple evolutionary model able to capture all of the observed behaviors, and we show that it reproduces quantitatively the empirical data. This work identifies general mechanisms of norm change, and we anticipate that it will be of interest to researchers investigating the cultural evolution of language and, more broadly, human collective behavior.

When Hillclimbers Beat Genetic Algorithms in Multimodal Optimization

  • It has been shown in the past that a multistart hillclimbing strategy compares favourably to a standard genetic algorithm with respect to solving instances of the multimodal problem generator. We extend that work and verify if the utilization of diversity preservation techniques in the genetic algorithm changes the outcome of the comparison. We do so under two scenarios: (1) when the goal is to find the global optimum, (2) when the goal is to find all optima.
    A mathematical analysis is performed for the multistart hillclimbing algorithm and a through empirical study is conducted for solving instances of the multimodal problem generator with increasing number of optima, both with the hillclimbing strategy as well as with genetic algorithms with niching. Although niching improves the performance of the genetic algorithm, it is still inferior to the multistart hillclimbing strategy on this class of problems.
    An idealized niching strategy is also presented and it is argued that its performance should be close to a lower bound of what any evolutionary algorithm can do on this class of problems.