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Organised by Professor Andrew Whiten FBA, Professor Robert Hinde FRS, Professor Christopher Stringer FRS and Professor Kevin Laland
In partnership with The British Academy
The capacity for culture is a product of biological evolution - yet culture itself can also evolve, generating cultural phylogenies. This highly interdisciplinary joint meeting with the British Academy will address new discoveries and controversies illuminating these phenomena, from the roots of culture in the animal kingdom to human, cultural evolutionary trees and the cognitive adaptations shaping our special cultural nature.
This meeting is part of See Further: The Festival of Science + Arts, celebrating 350 years of the Royal Society. This unique ten-day festival filling every corner of London’s Southbank Centre, features the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition and a host of cross-disciplinary collaborations, including music, dance, comedy, discussion, film, literature and art.
The proceedings of this meeting have now been published in a dedicated issue of Philosophical Transactions B.
Professor Andrew Whiten FBAOverview by Andrew Whiten
Professor Robert Hinde CBE FBA FRSOrganiser
Professor Chris Stringer FRSOrganiser
Professor Kevin LalandFrom fish to fashion: experimental and theoretical insights into the evolution of culture
Kevin N. Laland received his Ph.D. in psychology from University College London, UK, in 1990. After a Human Frontier Science Program postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Biology at the University of California-Berkeley, USA, and a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Fellowship and Royal Society University Research Fellowship in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, UK, he moved to the University of St Andrews, UK, where he is currently Professor of Biology. He studies behavioural and evolutionary biology, particularly niche construction, social learning and gene–culture co-evolution, using a range of theoretical and empirical methods. He is the author of over 150 scientific articles and 6 books, and is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Stephen CoxWelcome by Stephen Cox
Robin JacksonWelcome by Robin Jackson
Professor Luc-Alain GiraldeauThe costs and benefits of social information use: an appraisal of current experimental evidence
Luc-Alain Giraldeau obtained a PhD from McGill University in 1985 under Louis Lefebvre and spent some months with Sir John Krebs at the University of Oxford. After a postdoctoral fellowship in Psychology at the University of Toronto, he joined Concordia in 1987, became professor at University of Quebec at Montreal in 2000 and Chair of its Department of Biological Sciences in 2007. His research into animal behaviour concerns the problems raised by having to exploit resources in groups and applies evolutionary game theory to decisions of cooperation, usurpation, and the use of information inadvertently provided by others. He has published over 80 scientific papers, co-authored (with Caraco) a Princeton Monograph, co-edited (with Bolhuis) an Animal Behaviour textbook at Blackwell Science and (with Danchin & Cézilly) a Behavioural Ecology Texbook at Oxford University Press. Currently editor of Frontiers in Zoology, has been Associate Editor of American Naturalistandeditor of Animal Behaviour.
Professor Tore SlagsvoldThe role of cultural transmission in shaping a species’ ecological niche: cross-fostering experiments with titmice
Tore Slagsvold obtained a PhD from The University of Trondheim in 1978, where and when he also became an associate professor. He became a professor at The University of Oslo in 1984. He has been a key person building up research groups in behavioural ecology in Norway, and at present he is head of such a group at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, the University of Oslo. Research interests have been mate choice, mating systems, sexual dimorphism, sexual conflict, parent–offspring conflict, and sibling rivalry. In later years his main focus has been on how various traits in birds can be affected by the social environment experienced early in life, like sexual imprinting, song, and foraging behaviour. He has published more than 140 scientific papers and he is a Highly Cited ISI research fellow. He has been editor of Journal of Avian Biology.
Dr Alex ThorntonCultural transmission and the development of individual and group behaviour in mammal societies
Alex Thornton was born and grew up in Mexico City and later moved to the UK and studied biology at the University of Oxford. Following his PhD at the Department of Zoology in Cambridge he took up a Drapers' Company Research Fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge. His research uses a variety of observational and experimental techniques to investigate the role of social information in development and the establishment of traditions in natural animal populations. This work has led him to spend much of his career with meerkats in the Kalahari Desert, with an occasional outing to study banded mongooses in Uganda. More recently, he has begun a programme of research closer to home, investigating culture and cognition in corvids in the Cambridgeshire countryside.
Session 1 General Discussion
Professor Susan PerrySocial traditions in wild white-faced capuchin monkeys, Cebus capucinus
Susan Perry received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Michigan. In 1990 she founded the Lomas Barbudal Monkey Project, which is now in its 20th year of operation in Costa Rica. She is currently a Professor of Anthropology at UCLA and previously held an appointment as director of the Cultural Phylogeny research group at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. She is author of Manipulative Monkeys: the Capuchins of Lomas Barbudal (with J. Manson, 2008, Harvard Univ. Press) and co-editor (with D. Fragaszy) of The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence (2003, Cambridge Univ. Press). Her research has focused primarily on the social dynamics, communication, behavioral ecology, life histories and social traditions of the wild, white-faced capuchin monkeys of Costa Rica.
Professor Carel van SchaikOrangutan culture and its cognitive consequences
Carel van Schaik is a Dutch-born primatologist at the Anthropological Institute and Museum at the University of Zurich in Switzerland since 2004. Before moving to Zurich, he studied biology at the University of Utrecht, and held academic positions there and at Princeton and Duke University. van Schaik is interested in the evolution of social systems, culture and cognition in primates. He has studied wild primates in all continents, but with a strong focus on Indonesia.
Professor Andrew Whiten FBAThe scope of culture in chimpanzees, humans and their last common ancestor
Andrew Whiten is Professor of Evolutionary and Developmental Psychology, and Wardlaw Professor of Psychology at the University of St Andrews. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and Director of the ‘Living Links to Human Evolution’ Research Centre, a primate research centre of the University, located in Edinburgh Zoo in partnership with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. His research has focused on social cognition, particularly social learning, tradition and culture in both human and non-human primates. He has led the international collaboration charting cultural variation in wild chimpanzees, more recently complementing this with a suite of experimental studies dissecting social learning and cultural diffusion in monkeys, apes and human children. For this work he has received the Prix Delwart of the Royal Academy of Belgium and the Rivers Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
Dr Simon ReaderSocial learning co-evolves with primate brain enlargement and general intelligence
Simon Reader is an Assistant Professor in the Behavioural Biology group at Utrecht University. His work focuses on social cognition and decision making, in both humans and non-human animals. After completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge, he took up a Bellairs postdoctoral fellowship at the McGill field institute in the West Indies, followed by a Royal Society postdoctoral fellow in Montreal, before returning to Europe in 2003. He is currently examining the interplay between social and individual information gathering and, using comparative studies, the evolution of cognition and behavioural flexibility.
Session 2 General Discussion
Ignacio de la TorreOn the origins of early stone tool technologies
Professor Naama Goren-InbarCultural and cognitive aspects of the million-year-long Acheulian industry
Naama Goren-Inbar holds the position of professor of prehistory at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and focuses on the study and teaching of the prehistory of the Levantine Corridor in Israel. Her Ph.D. dissertation was devoted to the lithic assemblages of ‘Ubeidiya, and later research projects included excavations of sites in Israel dating from the Acheulian to Neolithic periods. Since 1989 she has directed a multidisciplinary research project at the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov. Aiming to reconstruct hominin behaviour during the Lower and Middle Pleistocene in the Dead Sea Rift, the study comprises in-depth and synergic analyses of diverse proxies focusing on environment, subsistence, material culture, and palaeoclimate.
Dr Dietrich StoutStone tool-making and the evolution of human culture and cognition
Dietrich Stout is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. His interests are in multidisciplinary approaches to human cognitive and brain evolution, with a special emphasis on the archaeological record of technological development. After receiving his PhD from Indiana University in 2003, he served as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Anthropology at The George Washington University and then as a Lecturer in Archaeology at University College London. His past work has included archaeological analyses of the world’s earliest known stone tools, experimental studies in the cognitive neuroscience of tool use, and an ethnographic investigation of traditional stone tool-making in Highland New Guinea. He currently contributes to archaeological fieldwork with the Gona Research Project in Afar, Ethiopia and is working with a team of colleagues in neuroscience, archaeology and engineering to develop new methods for interpreting the archaeological record of human cognitive evolution.
Professor Francesco d'ErricoEvolution, revolution or saltation scenario for the emergence of modern cultures?
Francesco d'Errico is a Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique director of research at the University of Bordeaux, and Professor at the Institute for Human Evolution, University of the Witwatersrand. Most of his research has focused on the origin and evolution of symbolic behaviours and complex bone technologies, the process of Neanderthal extinction and colonisation of Europe by Anatomically modern Humans, and the emergence of cultural boundaries and social inequalities in the Upper Palaeolithic through the analysis of ornaments and grave goods. He has led ten international and national research projects on these topics, and hold invited research positions at Princeton, Washington, and Johannesburg. His publication record includes more than 200 papers, most of which published in peer reviewed international journals.
Session 3 General Discussion
Dr Marta Mirazon LahrThe evolution of human cultural diversity
Marta Mirazon Lahr is Reader in Human Evolutionary Biology and Director of the Duckworth Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. She is also a Fellow of Clare College and was a co-founder of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies in Cambridge. Her research principally been concerned with the evolution and diversity of modern humans, Homo sapiens. This research has involved a range of disciplines, including human palaeontology, evolutionary genetics, linguistics and archaeology. She currently has field projects in Libya, India and Kenya. Among her publications is The Evolution of Human Diversity.
Professor Stephen Shennan FBADescent with modification and the archaeological record: micro-scale processes and macro-scale outcomes
Stephen Shennan did his BA and PhD in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. From Cambridge he went to Southampton, where he moved through the academic ranks, becoming Professor in 1995. In 1996 he moved to the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, as Professor of Theoretical Archaeology. Since the late 1980s his interests have been mainly focussed on exploring the use of method and theory from the study of biological evolution to understanding cultural stability and change. In 2000 he and a group of colleagues were successful in obtaining funding to set up the AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour at UCL, of which he became Director. In 2005 Shennan became Director of the Institute of Archaeology. His publications include Quantifying Archaeology (2nd ed. 1997), Genes, Memes and Human History: Darwinian Archaeology and Cultural Evolution (2002), and Pattern and Process in Cultural Evolution (edited, 2009).
Professor Ruth Mace FBACultural evolution in socio-political institutions
Ruth is a Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at University College London. Originally she trained in evolutionary biology doing a PhD on bird behavioural ecology at Oxford. She then became interested in a range of areas in human evolutionary ecology, especially those relating to human life history and reproduction. She is involved in studies of the evolutionary ecology and demography of several rural, African populations including in Kenya, Ethiopia and The Gambia, as well as conducting some studies in the UK. She is also involved in cross-cultural comparative studies testing adaptive hypotheses about the evolution of human diversity, both biological and cultural; she and her group have been developing the use of phylogenetic comparative methods to examine social evolution in human societies. She is one of the Editors-in-Chief of the journal Human Evolution and Behavior and in 2008 was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.
Professor Russell GrayLanguage evolution and human history: what a difference a date makes
Russell Gray has pioneered the application of computational phylogenetic methods to questions about linguistic prehistory. This work has helped solve long-standing debates on the origin of Indo-European languages and sequence and timing of the peopling of the Pacific. His work with Dr Gavin Hunt on New Caledonia crows has revealed that their remarkable tool manufacturing skills are the product of a lengthy learning period and are underpinned by brains with large associative regions and the ability to make causal inferences. He has been awarded a Hood Fellowship, a James Cook Fellowship and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Session 4 General Discussion
Professor Mark PagelCulture evolves: natural selection and word evolution
Mark Pagel is an evolutionary theorist interested in topics including evolvability, scaling and robustness, inferring evolutionary histories and the processes of evolution, and the evolution of language and culture. He is a regular contributor to Nature and Science, is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Evolution, and co-author of the widely cited book The Comparative Method in Evolutionary Biology.
Dr Mark CollardA reassessment of the impact of risk on hunter-gatherer toolkit diversity and complexity
Mark Collard studied archaeology and prehistory at the University of Sheffield, and then pursued a PhD in hominid palaeontology at the University of Liverpool. Subsequently, he carried out postdoctoral research in the Department of Anthropology at University College London, supported by a Wellcome Trust Bioarchaeology Research Fellowship. He has taught at University College London, Washington State University, and the University of British Columbia. Currently, he is associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University. Dr. Collard’s research spans palaeoanthropology and archaeological science. He is particularly interested in the identification of species in the hominin fossil record, the reconstruction of the evolutionary relationships of fossil primates, and the colonization of the Americas by Homo sapiens. He is also interested in developing methods to investigate technological evolution and to reconstruct demography in the distant past.
Dr Joe HenrichOn the nature of cultural transmission networks
Dr Henrich holds the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Evolution at the University of British Columbia, where he's appointed in both Economics and Psychology. His theoretical work focuses on how natural selection has shaped human learning and how this in turn influences cultural evolution, as on culture-gene coevolution. Methodologically, his research synthesizes experimental and analytical tools drawn from behavioural economics and psychology with in-depth quantitative ethnography, and has performed long-term fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon, rural Chile, and in Fiji. Trained in anthropology, his work has been published in the top journals in biology, anthropology and economics. In 2004 he was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award, the highest award bestowed by the United States upon scientists early in their careers. In 2007 he published Why Humans Cooperate. In 2009 the Human Behavior and Evolution Society awarded him their Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions.
Dr Luke RendellThe evolution of cultural transmission rules: insights from a social learning strategies tournament
After graduating in Zoology from Bangor University in 1995, Luke Rendell moved to Canada to research communication and culture in sperm whales, and obtained his PhD in Biology from Dalhousie University in 2003. He subsequently won a NERC Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue studying sperm whales at the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews. In 2006, he joined the research group of Kevin Laland, still at St Andrews, to work on the EU-funded 'Cultaptation' project studying the evolution of social learning using simulation models and experimental approaches. He is currently an ERC funded postdoctoral fellow at St Andrews, and has published over 30 papers on topics ranging from whale conservation to cultural evolution.
Session 5 General Discussion
Book prize event 6 Mar
History of science lecture 7 Mar
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