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Alfonso Troisi

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date: 08 May 2021

Evolving organisms must balance the need to change at an appropriate rate in response to varying environmental conditions against the need to maintain a functioning phenotype. This trade-off between conservatism and adaptability, between stability and exploration, has an interesting analogue at the social and cultural level. On the one hand, humans are characterized by an extreme dependence on culturally transmitted information, and deference to the group norm is the average individual behavior in human societies. On the other hand, innovation and openness to experience are distinctive features of cultural revolutions. This chapter focuses on the biology of conformity and innovation, discussing a variety of related topics, including personality changes with aging, the neural bases of divergent thinking, the positive effects of conservatism on intragroup cohesion, and the link between creativity and psychosis.

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