The Semantic Drift of Quotations in Blogspace: A Case Study in Short-Term Cultural Evolution
Sébastien Lerique, Camille Roth
Publications – Article/chapitre
We present an empirical case study which connects psycholinguistics with the field of cultural evolution, in order to test for the existence of cultural attractors in the evolution of quotations. Such attractors have been proposed as a useful concept for understanding cultural evolution in relation with individual cognition, but their existence has been hard to test. We focus on the transformation of quotations when they are copied from blog to blog or media website: by coding words with a number of well-studied lexical features, we show that the way words are substituted in quotations is consistent (1) with the hypothesis of cultural attractors, and (2) with known effects of the word features. In particular, words known to be harder to recall in lists have a higher tendency to be substituted, and words easier to recall are produced instead. Our results support the hypothesis that cultural attractors can result from the combination of individual cognitive biases in the interpretation and reproduction of representations.