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Durham e-Theses
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Content Biases in the Cultural Transmission and Evolution of Urban Legends

STUBBERSFIELD, JOSEPH,MICHAEL (2014) Content Biases in the Cultural Transmission and Evolution of Urban Legends. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines the role of cognitive content biases in cultural transmission. The concept of cognitive content biases suggests that humans preferentially attend to, recall and transmit certain types of information over others, and that this bias influences the transmission and evolution of cultural artefacts. A number of studies are presented which primarily use genuine urban legends as material. In using ‘real world’ material such as urban legends these studies expand our knowledge of how content biases operate and shed light on the cultural success of these legends. Methodology included qualitative analyses, experiments using participants in linear transmission chains and computational phylogenetic techniques. The studies demonstrate that content biases are an effective force in cultural transmission but that different biases may not necessarily operate in exactly the same manner. It is argued that the cultural success of urban legends can be explained by their exploitation of cognitive content biases. The studies also demonstrate the efficacy of using ‘real-world’ material such as urban legends in the examination of the mechanisms of cultural transmission and evolution.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Cultural Transmission; Cultural Evolution; Urban Legends; Content Biases
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Sep 2014 08:56

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