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Sociobiology of Communicationan interdisciplinary perspective$
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Patrizia d'Ettorre and David P. Hughes

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199216840

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216840.001.0001

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Why teach? The evolutionary origins and ecological consequences of costly information transfer

Why teach? The evolutionary origins and ecological consequences of costly information transfer

Chapter:
(p.265) CHAPTER 15 Why teach? The evolutionary origins and ecological consequences of costly information transfer
Source:
Sociobiology of Communication
Author(s):

Livio Riboli-Sasco

Sam Brown

François Taddei

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199216840.003.0015

If teaching is omnipresent in our knowledge societies, we know little about its evolutionary origins and we can hardly predict the outcome of today ever faster speed of information transfer made possible by the emergence of information and communication technologies used in wiki, e-mail, or web 2.0. To explore these issues, this chapter reformulates the ‘why teach’ question by asking: Why should an individual invest resources in transmission of information to another individual? A qualitative difference between teaching and other forms of altruism associated with material exchanges is that information copy number increases during teaching, allowing information to spread autocatalytically. Models are introduced where such autocatalytic transfer of information can modify the behaviours of individuals and thus impact their production of public good altering the shared environment. The chapter then discusses the evolutionary causes and ecological consequences of such dynamical processes that can be observed in organisms as diverse as bacteria and humans.

Keywords:   teaching, public goods, cultural evolution, social learning, wiki, e-mail, web 2.0, bacterial plasmid transfers, niche construction, education

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