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Inferring evolutionary forces of cultural change

Mathematical Biology Seminar
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Friday, December 11, 2020
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12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Joshua Plotkin (University of Pennsylvania)
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Mathematical Biology Seminar

I will discuss how to quantify forces responsible for cultural change using inference techniques drawn from population genetics. We study time series data from large corpora of parsed English texts to identify forces driving language change over the course of centuries. I will also describe a theory of exchangeable alleles to infer the form of frequency-dependent selection acting on other cultural traits, including baby names and pet dog breeds. These results help us to formulate appropriate null models of cultural evolution.

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