Review

Public Information: From Nosy Neighbors to Cultural Evolution

Science  23 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5683, pp. 487-491
DOI: 10.1126/science.1098254

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Abstract

Psychologists, economists, and advertising moguls have long known that human decision-making is strongly influenced by the behavior of others. A rapidly accumulating body of evidence suggests that the same is true in animals. Individuals can use information arising from cues inadvertently produced by the behavior of other individuals with similar requirements. Many of these cues provide public information about the quality of alternatives. The use of public information is taxonomically widespread and can enhance fitness. Public information can lead to cultural evolution, which we suggest may then affect biological evolution.

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