advancing cultural evolutionary studies

Map and some data points

What is Cultural Evolution

Cultural evolution is the change of culture over time.
Origination Map

Exploring the Human Story

Social Network Analysis Visualization Image Social Network Analysis Visualization Image

Tracking the Evolution of Technology

The scientific basis for innovation and improvement


Our mission is to advance the research and applications of cultural evolutionary studies. We support all evolutionary approaches to the study of human and nonhuman animal culture.

Membership is open to all who share this as a basic research, teaching, or applied interest. The Cultural Evolution Society is committed to a broad, pluralistic and interdisciplinary perspective, which brings together all researchers applying evolutionary theory to the understanding of cultural inheritance and evolution.



Templeton Grant 2021 | NEW website for the funding scheme including submission portal

We have a shiny new website for the CES funding scheme 'Transforming the field of cultural evolution and its application to global human futures'.

Cultural Evolution Society Transformation Fund

Please explore our new website (where you will find all information that has been hosted on this CES website until now).  Most importantly you will also find the grant submission portal and we look forward to lots of fantastic outline applications by 5th January 2022.


CES Workshop Application Open | Deadline: 29 October 2021

To help support regional meetings, working groups, side events at the meetings of other scientific societies, and other activities, CES invites applications from members (student members are particularly encouraged) for workshop funding. A total of USD$2,000 (a maximum of USD$1000 per workshop) will be awarded for the second application period in 2021 — deadline 29 October 2021. For more information on criteria and how to apply, click here.

Applications will be independently judged by two members of the Executive Committee (Juliet Dunstone and Patricia Izar) as well as by the two heads of the Workshop Committee--Monique Borgerhoff Mulder and Carol Ember. Should you have specific questions about the application process, please address them to Borgerhoff Mulder <[email protected]u> and Ember <[email protected]>.

To help equalize the chances of junior and/or underrepresented applicants in receiving funding we have mentors from the Executive Committee available to help you craft your proposal. Fiona Jordan <[email protected]> and Kenny Smith <[email protected]> have agreed to serve as mentors. Please contact a mentor for help at least two weeks before the deadline.

The application form text can be found here.

CSH Winter School on the Evolution of Social Complexity

During the Holocene (roughly, the last 10,000 years) human social life has been transformed from small-scale relatively egalitarian groups to large-scale complex societies characterized by sophisticated governance institutions, elaborate information systems, extensive division of labor, and deep social and economic inequalities. Thinkers of the past and modern social scientists have proposed a multitude of theories to account for this profound transformation. However, whereas new explanations continue to be proposed, the theoretical corpus only grows, while deficient explanations have not been rejected in favor of more logically cohesive and empirically adequate theories. This situation is about to change due to the proliferation of new modeling approaches that translate verbal hypotheses into testable quantitative predictions and, especially, the construction of new databases together constituting a massive, and growing corpus of data for empirically testing theoretical predictions.

The CSH Winter School will offer an intensive week-long course on social complexity science: modeling and data analytics. The participants will learn:

  • The goals and challenges of agent-based modeling of social systems
  • The strengths and limitations of various databases on social evolution and dynamics
  • The approaches to integrating theory with data: parameterizing models and empirically testing model predictions

TEMPLETON GRANT 2021 | Funding Scheme Details | Deadline (outline stage) 5th January 2022

Thanks to the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation we are running a major new funding scheme to address big questions in the field of cultural evolution. After all, how our cultures evolve (including how information is transmitted, how people make decisions, and the interaction with our biology) is a pressing issue in a world in which our cultural activities are causing rapid, and drastic, social and physical changes. 


Through this funding scheme we aim to tackle early career obstacles, western-centrism, traditional disciplinary divides, and division of scientists and public policy makers through 16 Research Projects (averaging £90,000 each) and 5 Applied Working Groups (£43,000 each). The deadline for the first (outline) stage of the funding competition is 5th January 2022 (midnight, UK time) and funded awards are expected to begin in December 2022-January 2023. 

For details on the calls for proposals and how to apply, click here.

CES2021 CONFERENCE | Call for Abstracts now open

We are excited to announce the opening of abstract submission for the Cultural Evolution Society Conference 2021, held as a full virtual online meeting on June 9-11, 2021.

One person can submit only one abstract as a corresponding presenter. Abstracts should be written in English and not exceed 250 words. The abstract submission will be closed on April 30.  

Reviewing of submitted abstracts will start in late March. Acceptance notification will be immediately sent to authors to assure sufficient time for registration and to prepare for materials to be presented on the virtual conference website.

Speaker policy:
Following our Society's "Guidelines for organizing a diverse conference or workshop", anonymized abstracts will first be evaluated by scientific committee members, after which decisions about acceptance may incorporate demographic information in order to "achieve balance and representation with respect to ethnicity, geographical distribution, level of seniority, scientific approach, and other characteristics". As recommended, this will include aiming for "no more than 60% of speakers of any one gender”.

How to submit your abstract:
Please visit the abstract submission page here: 

You need to create a user account which will be used for both abstract submission and registration. Registration will start in late March. After creating a user account, you can proceed to abstract submission. An abstract needs to be directly entered in a text input field and you cannot upload any electronic files to the system.
If you have any inquiries, please send e-mail to [email protected]

The CES Executive is immensely grateful to Masanori Takezawa and the local Sapporo organising committee, as well as the scientific committee, for their strenuous efforts on behalf of the CES to bring the conference to you this year.

CES WORKSHOP FUND 2021 | Applications Now Open

To help support regional meetings, working groups, side events at the meetings of other scientific societies, and other activities, CES invites applications from members (student members are particularly encouraged) for workshop funding. Up to USD$1,000 will be awarded for each of two application periods—7 May 2021 and 29 October 2021.

For more information on criteria and how to apply, click here.


Whoop!  We have won a £2.8 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation entitled 

Transforming the Field of Cultural Evolution and its Application to Human Futures. This is a new funding stream for the CES membership with equality, diversity and sustainability at its heart.   It will fund research projects, applied working groups, capacity-building training courses, a conference and public engagement activities. These will tackle early career obstacles, western-centrism, traditional disciplinary divides, and division of scientists and public policy makers to transform understanding of human futures, and flourishing, through both a cultural and genetic evolutionary lens.  The grant will significantly boost the capacity of our relatively young field.  Watch this space for announcements regarding the funding competition (1st deadline likely Dec 2021).

CES AGM 2020

The CES had their 2020 AGM on November 18th. If you missed it you can catch up here.

New Online Tutorials: Dynamical Systems in Cultural Evolution

The Center for the Dynamics of Society Complexity (DySoC) and the Cultural Evolution Society (CES) announce a new online learning series presenting basic and applied lessons in the dynamics of cultural evolution. To truly understand how culture evolves, scientists often turn to mathematical models to shed light on how culture and life history have interacted in shaping who we are and what we might become. The CES online learning series, which includes seven modules, has been developed with self-guided study in mind. Through a variety of online learning methods, students will be able to independently work through the material to gain both a theoretical understanding of the method and practical experience using it. The concepts and techniques covered in these modules are intended to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations. The modules could serve as a basis for intensive short courses, seminars, or as components of a regular quarter or semester course.

The modules were created by scholars from around the world through a competitive process as a part of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation with principal investigators DySoC Director Sergey Gavrilets and past CES President Peter J. Richerson. Technical assistance was provided by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. Four of the seven modules have been released, available at

They are as follows:

  • Models of Social Dynamics: An Introductory Module (created by Paul E. Smaldino, Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California, Merced).
  • Animal Cultures: Core Discoveries and New Horizons (created by Andy Whiten, University of St Andrews, UK; Lucy Aplin, Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour, Germany; Nicolas Claidière, CNRS, Aix-Marseille University, France; Rachel Kendal, University of Durham, UK).
  • The Neverending Story: Cultural Evolution and Narratives (created by Joseph Stubbersfield, Psychology Department, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK; Jamie Tehrani, Anthropology Department, Durham University, Durham, UK; Oleg Sobchuk, Max Planck Institute the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany).
  • Foundations of Cultural Evolution (created by Adrian Bell, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah).

The remaining modules will be released this summer. They include Modeling the Dynamics of Cultural Diversification; Dynamic Models of Human Systems; and Cultural Evolution of Dynamic Learning.

Anti-Racism Statement

The Cultural Evolution Society is committed to inclusion, equality and diversity and has promoted structural inclusivity in its activities since its inception. We are a society with the multi-disciplinary study of cultural diversity and change at its heart and will continue to work actively to support and encourage science and scholarship that both acknowledges and breaks from historical and colonially-influenced racism. We strongly condemn violence, racism and discrimination against people of colour and indigenous people, and in particular want to express solidarity with Black members and students at this time.

We seek to tackle societal and structural racism in the research we promote, conferences/meetings and educational/outreach activities we support, and in the way the society is run. Accordingly, we would like to remind our members that we provide grants for CES conference attendance specifically aimed at addressing issues such as structural racism and sexism and that we are explicit in only providing funds to workshops that demonstrate inclusivity.  We can undoubtedly do better, and if you see instances where we have made mistakes, or opportunities missed to actively discuss and address racism in our disciplines and Society, please do let us know by emailing [email protected].


Mailing List has moved

We have moved to a new mailing list provider, and to comply with GDPR legislation we need you to re-affirm your consent to receive newsletters and annoucenments. Please click here to provide your details.