This paper will seek to situate style as a means of communication in a fundamental human cognitive process identified in social psychology: the establishment of positive personal and social identities via social comparison and the projection of these to others. First, identification by comparison and its link to stylistic communication will be discussed. Second, how this cognitive process came to be in our evolutionary history, and the evolutionary developments through which style might have arisen will be identified. Third, the implications of this process for formulating stylistic questions and guiding analysis will be developed. The focus will be on diachronic rather than synchronic stylistic analysis, namely, on analysis of the changing relations between the individual and society and how history is drawn on selectively in creating or transforming identities. Finally, the utility of the approach will be tested in a follow-up case study of stylistic change in projectile points and beadwork among the !Kung San (Ju/'hoansi) of Botswana and Namibia.
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