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.



We are thrilled to announce the winners of the inaugural ACE Awards. We received a substantial number of applications for each award: 22 applications in total for the two ACE Early Career Research Awards, 9 applications for the ACE Building Capacity Award, and 12 applications for the ACE Outreach Award.

Several applications were highly competitive, and so we have also identified a few applications to receive an honorable mention. See our awards report for full details of the winners and honorable mentions.


For all the grants below, applications must be received by March 20, 2023 AoE to be considered. To learn more about the Advancing Cultural Evolution (ACE) initiative, see here. The application links with have additional information regarding eligibility, review, and other procedures.

ACE Building Research Capacity Award

The following application is for one award of up to $6000 to support either:

  1. A researcher from a Low-and-middle-income (LMIC) or Global South (GS) country to visit a host institution anywhere in the world to obtain training or collaborate with cultural evolution research. (Application type 1)
  2. An established cultural evolution researcher from anywhere in the world to visit a host institution in an LMIC/GS country. (Application type 2)

We are ideally looking to support visits that are at least 3 months or longer. Visits should be focused on providing training in cultural evolution theory or methods, or developing research collaborations that help advance research capacity in LMIC/GS countries, or contribute to professional development of a scholar from an LMIC/GS country.  Visits can occur in the award year or the following year.

Here is the link to apply:

ACE Outreach Awards

One award of up to $2500 for supporting activities to translate cultural evolution research for a non-academic audience or students outside of the field of cultural evolution. This can include activities such as

  • traveling to study communities to disseminate research findings;
  • translating a book or paper to another language;
  • creating a professional video or film of a research project;
  • developing dissemination materials;
  • organizing a high-school student event hosting a meeting with policy makers
  • preparing webinars, course materials, or workshops for undergraduate students

Here is the link to apply:

ACE Early Career Research Grants

Two awards of up to $3000 each to support research projects in cultural evolution.

Here is the link to apply:

Call for Applications: Summer Institutes for Cross-Cultural Anthropological Research.

These Summer Institutes will train faculty, researchers, and advanced graduate students in the theory and state-of-the art methods for conducting regional and worldwide comparative research. The aim is for these methods to be incorporated into educational courses and cross-cultural research using anthropological data. The third and final three-week Summer Institute will be held July 17 through August 4, 2023 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. The program will include lectures, discussion, hands-on exercises and each participant will design and execute a pilot project during their time at an institute. The primary instructors are Carol R. Ember (Human Relations Area Files at Yale University, USA), Fiona Jordan (University of Bristol, UK) and Séan Roberts (Cardiff University, UK). Tentatively, additional lectures will be delivered by Damian Blasi, Alexandra Brewis Slade, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Jeremy Koster, Eleanor Power, and Amber Wutich.

The instruction at the Institute will cover all phases of regional and worldwide comparisons from project conception through statistical analysis that are consistent with scientific principles. We anticipate supporting 12 applicants each summer for this intensive course. Participants will be reimbursed for all or most of their economy travel to and from the Institute and they will receive free room and board (probably on the Yale University campus) during the term of the Institute.

Applications are due February 15, 2023 by 17:00 Eastern Standard Time.

More details on topics and how to apply are available at the webpage:


CES is launching a new funding initiative, thanks to a generous donation from Eric and Peggy Peterson. Click here to learn more about the donors.

The awards will run from 2023-2027 and help support and increase the global reach of cultural evolution research by supporting early career researchers, outreach efforts, and capacity building in Low-and-Middle Income countries. See more information on our Advancing Cultural Evolution (ACE) Grants page.

CES 2024 CONFERENCE | Durham, UK

CES is excited to announce that the CES 2024 Conference will be held in Durham (UK) on 9-11th September, hosted by Durham Cultural Evolution Research Centre (DCERC) and immediately followed by the CES Transformation Fund capstone conference on 12-13th September 2024.


Congratulations to our 2022 Cultural Evolution Society Prizewinners! For more information, see our 2022 prizewinners page.

Prize Name Affiliation
Pete Richerson Award for Best PhD (Finalist) Alba Motes Rodrigo University of Lausanne
Pete Richerson Award for Best PhD (Finalist) Mason Youngblood Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology
Pete Richerson Award for Best PhD (Winner) Manvir Singh Institute for Advanced Study, Toulouse
New Investigator award (Finalist) Patrick Savage Keio University
New Investigator award (Finalist) Damian Blasi Harvard University
New Investigator award (Winner) Nicole Wen Brunel University, London



The Cultural Evolution Society (CES) announces two new funding schemes for its 4th Conference in Aarhus, Denmark! We thank the John Templeton Foundation for providing funds to support these awards.

1. Inclusivity awards:

In an effort to promote a diverse attendance at the CES conference, we are providing a limited number of travel awards of upto 800 USD, and registration fee waivers to assist with the costs of attending the meeting either in-person or online. The funds are aimed towards individuals facing barriers to participating in academic meetings. Eligible individuals include but are not limited to applicants who are:

  • from low and middle income countries
  • from countries with limited funding for research; 
  • individuals with disabilities; 
  • individuals from communities who have been marginalised or are underrepresented in the academy;
  • individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds;
  • carers of children or other dependents;
  • underemployed individuals;
  • individuals lacking other support for attending the meeting.

Individuals may apply for both a travel award and registration fee waiver. Funding decisions will prioritise criteria that help increase the diversity among CES conference participants. You can apply here.

2. Funding for Local CES Conference Meet-ups

As we embark on our very first hybrid conference, CES encourages delegates who cannot attend the in-person conference to gather locally or regionally in smaller groups during the dates of the conference, in order to have the benefits of in-person discussions and networking while participating virtually in the conference. We are providing funding of up to 2000 USD to organise such local/regional CES conference mini-hubs. The funding can be used by organisers for costs associated with hosting the meet-up such as providing food and beverages for attendees, or renting meeting space and AV equipment. The organisers can also choose to discount registration fee by refunding hub participants a portion of their registration fee. To comply with donor restrictions, the funds cannot be used to support travel costs for hub attendees (transportation and accommodation). 

The format of these meet-ups should be designed by organisers to meet and leverage local needs and opportunities for CES researchers. We especially welcome creative ideas that harness these meet-ups to overcome the limitations of virtual attendance, and provide delegates with a rich and stimulating conference experience. Anyone from any region can apply for these awards.

You can apply here. Deadline to apply for the awards is September 10 and applications are now being reviewed on a rolling basis.

For more information about both schemes, and the 2022 conference more generally, check out our conference website.


To help support regional meetings, working groups, side events at the meetings of other scientific societies, and other activities, CES invites applications from members for workshop funding. Student members are particularly encouraged to apply.

A maximum of USD$1000 may be awarded per workshop from the total of USD$1,500 allocated for the first application period in 2022 — deadline 6 May 2022. For more information on criteria and how to apply, click here.  An additional call will be put out in the fall with a 28 October, 2022 deadline.  Look for announcements in early September.

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

To help equalize the chances of junior and/or underrepresented applicants in receiving funding we will have mentors from the Executive Committee available to help you craft your proposal. Adrian Bell <[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.


We look forward to the fourth Cultural Evolution Society Conference, CES2022! The conference will be held from September 21-23 in the city of Aarhus, Denmark.

As last year, Underline will support the online component of the conference. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is causing a great deal of uncertainty for all of us. Therefore, we seek to offer a hybrid format that will hopefully allow some folks to travel to Aarhus, others to meet up locally or regionally in CES hub-lets, and others yet to participate online.

Thanks to funding support from the Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, student registration will be offered free of cost for CES student members, and will be discounted for student non-members.

As a reminder the deadline to apply for themed sessions is March 21st.

Below is the link to the 2022 conference website, which will be updated as planning proceeds, so check back for new information.


The Cultural Evolution Society will be offering the Richerson Award in honour of Peter Richerson. This award will be offered to a recent graduate who has produced outstanding doctoral research in the field of cultural evolution. 

Pete has been a key figure in shaping and guiding the field of Cultural Evolution over the last few decades and this award aims to highlight new researchers who will go on to shape and guide our field. The award will be offered once every two years thanks to a generous donation from Peter Richerson. 

The recipient will receive a $300 award, a three-year society membership, and a waiver of registration fees for the upcoming Cultural Evolution Society conference. The award recipient’s name and thesis/dissertation title will be highlighted on the CES website and via social media, and announced at the bi-annual conference.

Deadline: April 15, 2022 (Anywhere on Earth). 

Link: The application and further information are here:

Questions: Contact Simon Greenhill, CES Awards committee chair ([email protected])


The Cultural Evolution Society will award this to a researcher who has shown outstanding contribution and potential in the field within 5 years of gaining their PhD. 

This award is intended to highlight and recognise the emerging researchers who have already made an impact on our field through their scholarship, or by integrating their research activities with superlative mentorship or training or academic service that has contributed to enhancing the scientific impact of the field.

The winner of the award will be given the opportunity to present a plenary talk highlighting their work at the bi-annual Cultural Evolution Society conference held the same year. The cost of travel, accommodation and registration fee to attend the conference will be covered by CES. We do not want to dissuade applicants who might not be able to travel to the 2022 conference. As such, we aim to be flexible in terms of giving the recipient the opportunity to give their plenary talk virtually, or defer their plenary talk to the next conference if virtual attendance this year is not possible. 

Deadline: April 15, 2022 (Anywhere on Earth). 

Link: The application and further information are here:

Questions: Contact Simon Greenhill, CES Awards committee chair ([email protected])

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 six 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).
  • Modeling the Dynamics of Cultural Diversification (created by Bernard Koch, Sociology, UCLA; Erik Gjesfjeld Archaeology, Cambridge; Michael Alfaro, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, UCLA; Jacob Foster, Sociology, UCLA; Daniele Silvestro, Biological & Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Gothenburg)
  • Dynamic Models of Human Systems (created by Russell Genet, California Polytechnic State University; Peter Richerson, University of California, Davis; Cheryl Genet, Cuesta College; Charles Efferson, University of Lausanne)

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].


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