I was at the RSA a few days ago to listen to Professor Mike O’Brien from the University of Missouri and Dr. Alex Bentley of Durham University speak about how their research on evolution can be applied to human behavioural studies, courtesy Mark Earls. One of the examples Dr. Bentley mentioned that stuck with me was how when we go to buy a pair of glasses, we tend to buy glasses that we’d seen people wearing on the way to the store (frequency dependent bias, which results in homogeneity, which in turn results in something becoming contagious – or to me, a trend). I thought that was quite interesting.
Another example that Professor O’Brien mentioned was the Charge of the Brides that happens in Filene’s Basement every year, which I remember from that episode of Friends. There’s a lot of sociological theory I remember from university that can be applied here (mobs, collective behaviour and so on), but this kind of herd behaviour is what in general results in inventions often becoming innovations, as he mentioned.
At work, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a project a success through propagation planning. The cultural evolution theory explains why this is so difficult. As it says here, as human populations transform themselves, their culture becomes progressively complex. So it isn’t easy.
And so I beaver on.