What the Baldwin Effect affects

Abstract

The Baldwin Effect is a proposed mechanism by which plasticity facilitates adaptive phenotypic and genetic evolution. In particular it has been proposed to be involved in the evolution of language. Here we investigate three factors affecting the extent to which plastic traits are fixed by selection: (i) the difficulty with which traits can be acquired through plasticity, (ii) the importance of traits to fitness, and (iii) the nature of dependencies between different traits. We find that selection preferentially fixes traits that are difficult to acquire through plasticity, traits that have larger fitness benefits, and traits that affect the acquisition of, or benefits from, other traits. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for the evolution of language as well as non-human behaviors and re-consider the evolutionary significance of the Baldwin Effect.


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