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psc brown bag iconA Cognitive Model of Culture for Demography

Christine Bachrach (Maryland Population Research Center, University of Maryland)

01/28/2013, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.

Archived video available

Few demographers, now or in the past, would question that culture plays a role in influencing demographic behaviors and trends. However, demographers have not developed a common vision for how that role can be characterized: how to specify the relevant cultural elements, measure their evolution and variation within and across particular populations, identify the mechanisms that shape the cultural environments of populations, and model how these elements contribute to demographic outcomes. Part of the problem, I suggest, is that our models of culture itself and the vocabularies we use to characterize it have not evolved in tandem with the development of new theory about how culture works. A model of culture grounded in evidence about how the brain learn, stores, and uses cultural knowledge can provide new insights into the concepts that dominate past accounts of culture (e.g., norms, values) while at the same time providing the conceptual links to new theories. I explore these ideas in the context of recent work on family change.

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