New Directions in the Evolutionary Social Sciences

13 December 2016 - 14 December 2016

Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Registration for the conference is now closed.



Andrew Buskell (University of Cambridge)



In the last thirty-five years, the study of human culture using evolutionary tools has exploded. Where once evolutionary models had been scarce, such methods are now used throughout the social sciences: in anthropology, linguistics, history and economics. Indeed, these evolutionary social sciences now constitute a mature field of research. There are institutions for research into the evolution of human culture, and new research societies promising dedicated journals to the study of cultural evolution.

Yet within the evolutionary social sciences – however mature – there is room for exploration, for new methods, and new approaches. This conference gathers together researchers working at the cutting-edge of the field, and will open dialogues on the as-of-yet unanswered issues at the heart of social science and cultural evolution. Progress on these issues will require the conjoined efforts of a wide range of disciplines whose natural home is not in the social sciences: archaeologists, mathematicians, geneticists, primatologists, and more besides. 




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, and the Galton Institute.


Administrative assistance:

Day 1: Tuesday 13 December

10.45 - 11.15


11.15 - 11.30

Welcome and opening

11.30 - 12.30

Session 1

Mathieu Charbonneau (Central European University)

The structure of cumulative cultural evolution


Discussant: Enza Spinapolice (Sapienza University of Rome)

12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.30

Session 2 

Olivier Morin (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)

How to say things with things: the evolution of graphic codes


Albert Acerbi (Eindhoven University of Technology)

It’s worth the fuss: for a plurality of approaches in cultural evolution

15.30 - 16.00


16.00 - 17.00

Session 3 

Christine Caldwell (University of Stirling)

Methods for investigating cumulative cultural evolution in humans and nonhumans


Discussant: Corina Logan (University of Cambridge)

Day 2: Wednesday 14 December

9.30 - 10.30

Session 4

Anne Kandler (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

Linking models with data in cultural evolution: analysis of the archaeological record


Discussant: Adam Powell (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)

10.30 - 11.00


11.00 - 13.00

Session 5

Heidi Colleran (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)

Bridging micro and macro level approaches to the coevolution of culture and demography


Laura Fortunato (University of Oxford)

Revisiting the effect of red on competition in humans

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.00

Session 6

Nicole Creanza (Vanderbilt University)

Large-scale cultural change as a feature of cultural evolution itself


Discussant: Neeltje Boogert (University of Cambridge)

15.00 - 15.30

Concluding Remarks