Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Lahti

Committee Members

Carolyn Pytte

Stefano Ghirlanda

Subject Categories

Behavior and Ethology | Cognitive Psychology | Comparative Psychology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Human Ecology | Social Psychology and Interaction | Theory and Philosophy


cultural evolution, animal behavior, comparative psychology, phylogenetics, computational social science


Cultural evolution, or change in the socially learned behavior of a population over time, is a fascinating phenomenon that is widespread in humans and present in some non-human animals. In this dissertation, I present an array of cultural evolutionary studies that bridge pattern and process in a wide range of research models including music, extremism, and birdsong. The first chapter is an introduction to the field of cultural evolution, including a bibliometric analysis of its structure. The second and third chapters are studies on the cultural dynamics of music sampling traditions in hip-hop and electronic music communities and far-right extremism in the United States, using social network analysis and epidemiological modeling, respectively. The fourth and fifth chapters are studies on how cultural transmission biases influence population-level changes in music sampling traditions and house finch song, using a combination of agent-based modeling and machine learning. The sixth chapter is a technical report on computerized birdfeeders that were used to remotely collect data on the social network structure of a wild house finch population. Lastly, the seventh chapter applies a novel phylogenetic method based on dynamic community detection to reconstruct the cultural evolution of electronic music.