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Icon for: R. Kyle Bocinsky


Washington State University


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Rebellion Today: Why Diversity, Globalism, and Economic Instability Disfavor Conventional Wisdom, from Middle Schools to the Middle East

The history of the human race, especially since the spread of agriculture, has been a story of exponentially increasing global connectivity. One only has to witness the transformative effect of populist revolutions that dismantled the USSR or that are occuring in the Middle East to begin to see how global connection and unstable economies compel people to abandon ‘old’ ways of doing things. Here, we develop an evolutionary model that explores under what conditions ‘conservative’ learning—modeled as learning from parents—is favored over innovating or learning from non-parents. We use an agent-based spatialization of McElreath and Strimling’s (2008) social learning model to show that conservative learning (and, by extension, behavior) is favored in social environments that are stable, homogeneous, and close-knit. Our findings suggest that humans have evolved several mechanisms for choosing who to imitate, and that recent environmental conditions—brought about by the internet, media, and telecommunications—have shifted selective favor towards rebellion.