Introductions to cultural evolution / general talks

Joseph Henrich “The Secret of our Success”, Talks at Google

Robert Boyd, “How Culture Shaped Human Evolution”, IAST Distinguished Lectures in the Social Sciences

Kevin Laland – The Evolution of Culture

Simon Kirby, “The Language Organism: Evolution, Culture, and What it Means to be Human”, University of Edinburgh

Michael Muthukrishna: Cultural Evolutionary Psychology – HBES Plenary 2021


Short videos (<15 mins):

Joe Henrich: Cultural Evolution and Dual Inheritance

Daniel Dennett: Memes 101 | How Cultural Evolution Works | Big Think


Seminar series

Dysoc/NIMBioS Webinar Series on Cultural Evolution (see the associated tutorials in the Online tutorials and courses section below)

Evolutionary Approaches to Culture conference (Institute of Advanced Studies, Sao Paulo University, Brazil, CES workshop funded)
Part 1 featuring Edu Ottoni, Andy Whiten, Christine Caldwell
Part 2 featuring Cristine Legare & Rachel Kendal

Roundtable discussion on “The Generalised Theory of Evolution” with Daniel Dennett, Eva Jablonka, Alex Mesoudi, Brian Skyrms and Gerhard Schurz, University of Dusseldorf

Extension of Biology Through Culture series, Arthur Sackler Colloquium (Alison Gopnik, Elli Leadbeater, Hal Whitehead, Kevin Laland, Russell Gray, Paul Harris, Arnon Lotem, Christine Legare, Alex Mesoudi, Dorothy Fragaszy, Dietrich Stout, Susan Perry, Andrew Whiten)

The emergence of collective knowledge and cumulative culture in animals, humans and machines (Royal Society scientific discussion meeting organised in partnership with the British Academy by Andrew Whiten, Ellen Garland, Dora Biro and Simon Kirby.


Advanced research talks

Cecilia Heyes, “Cultural Inheritance of Cultural Learning”, University of Oxford

Sarah Mathew : War and peace: The cultural evolution of large-scale conflict and cooperation

Fiona Jordan : A subject too large and complex for Darwin: Cultural Evolution of Kinship Terminology

Heidi Colleran : The impossibility of “natural fertility” in human cultural systems

Alex Mesoudi, A Brief History of Cultural Evolution. A keynote presentation at the Culture Conference 2021: Evolutionary Approaches to Culture, 7th June 2021.

Richard McElreath – The Problem with Cultural Evolution

Manvir Singh : Human social organisation during the Late Pleistocene: Challenging the nomadic-egalitarian model

General cultural evolution

Not By Genes Alone by Peter J Richerson and Robert Boyd

The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich

Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences by Alex Mesoudi

Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind by Kevin N. Laland

A Story of Us by Lesley Newson and Peter J. Richerson

Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb

On the Origin of Teepees by Johnnie Hughes


Language / communication

Speaking our Minds by Thom Scott-Phillips

The Language Game: How Improvisation Created Language and Changed the World by Morten H. Christiansen, Nick Chater, et al.



The Emergence and Evolution of Religion: By Means of Natural Selection by Jonathan H. Turner, Alexandra Maryanski, Anders Klostergaard Petersen and Armin W. Geertz

The Evolution of Religion: Studies, Theories and Critiques edited by Joseph Bulbulia et al.

Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture edited by Armin W. Geertz



UltraSociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators by Peter Turchin

A Different Kind of Animal by Robert Boyd

Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others by David Sloan Wilson



Genes, Memes and Human History: Darwinian Archaeology and Cultural Evolution by Stephen Shennan

Applying Evolutionary Archaeology by Michael J O’Brien & R. Lee Lyman


Edited academic volumes

Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion edited by Peter J. Richerson and Morten Christiansen

Culture Evolves, edited by Andrew Whiten, Robert A. Hinde, Christopher B. Stringer & Kevin N. Laland

The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Evolution, edited by Rachel Kendal, Jamie Tehrani & Jeremy Kendal


Technical / philosophy

Cognitive Gadgets by Celia Heyes

Cultural Evolution by Tim Lewens

Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution by Marion Blute

How Traditions Live and Die by Olivier Morin

The Evolved Apprentice by Kim Sterelny


Foundational books

Cultural Transmission and Evolution by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Marcus Feldman

Culture and the Evolutionary Process by Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson

Explaining Culture by Dan Sperber

Cultural Evolution Society Online Learning Series

These online modules present many basic and applied issues in cultural evolution and introduce students to methods of dynamical systems theory as applied to the evolution of human systems. Without the aid of mathematical models, human intuitions about dynamic systems of any complexity can be quite faulty. The materials have 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 doing it.

The series includes:
– Models of Social Dynamics (Paul Smaldino)
– Animal Cultures (Andrew Whiten, Lucy Aplin, Nicolas Claidiere, Rachel Kendal)
– The Neverending Story (Joseph Stubbersfield, Jamie Tehrani, Oleg Sobchuk)
– Foundations of Cultural Evolution (Adrian Bell)
– Modeling the Dynamics of Cultural Diversification (Bernard Koch, Erik Gjesfjeld)
– Dynamic Models of Human Systems (Russell Genet, Peter Richerson, Cheryl Genet & Charles Efferson)


Simulation Models of Cultural Evolution in R (Alex Mesoudi)

This tutorial shows how to create very simple simulation or agent-based models of cultural evolution in R, including unbiased and biased transmission, unbiased and biased mutation, migration, blending inheritance, polarisation, cultural group selection, social networks, iterated learning, reinforcement learning and the evolution of social learning.


Individual-based models of cultural evolution: A step-by-step guide using R (Alberto Acerbi, Alex Mesoudi & Marco Smolla)

The field of cultural evolution has emerged in the last few decades as a thriving, interdisciplinary effort to understand cultural change and cultural diversity within an evolutionary framework and using evolutionary tools, concepts and methods. Given its roots in evolutionary biology, much of cultural evolution is grounded in, or inspired by, formal models. Yet many researchers interested in cultural evolution come from backgrounds that lack training in formal models, such as psychology, anthropology or archaeology. This book aims to partly address this gap by showing readers how to create individual-based models (IBMs, also known as agent-based models, or ABMs) of cultural evolution.


Computational Modeling of Social Behavior (Paul Smaldino)

In this graduate-level workshop, students will learn about agent-based modeling and how it is applied to study social phenomena in human and animal societies. Agent-based models are widely used to help us understand a wide range of topics, including but not limited to cooperation, social learning, collective problem solving, opinion dynamics and polarization, segregation, the spread of disease, and the emergence of social norms. Students will receive introductions to relevant formal theories in the life and social sciences, and get hands on experience writing and analyzing simulation models using NetLogo, a widely used software package for agent-based modeling.


Very Little Evolutionary Game Theory (Richard McElreath)

Five 2-hour lectures demonstrating how simple models of strategic interaction illuminate important topics in the evolution of animal behavior, along with extensive notes.


Statistical Rethinking 2023 (Richard McElreath)

This course teaches data analysis, but it focuses on scientific models. The unfortunate truth about data is that nothing much can be done with it, until we say what caused it. We will prioritize conceptual, causal models and precise questions about those models. We will use Bayesian data analysis to connect scientific models to evidence. And we will learn powerful computational tools for coping with high-dimension, imperfect data of the kind that biologists and social scientists face.

D-Place: Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment

From the foods we eat, to who we can marry, to the types of games we teach our children, the diversity of cultural practices in the world is astounding. Yet, our ability to visualize and understand this diversity is often limited by the ways it traditionally has been documented and shared: on a culture-by-culture basis, in locally-told stories or difficult-to-access books and articles.

D-PLACE represents an attempt to bring together this dispersed corpus of information. It aims to make it easy for individuals to contrast their own cultural practices with those of other societies, and to consider the factors that may underlie cultural similarities and differences. Users can build comparative datasets that include not just cultural features, but also information on the linguistic and ecological environments in which a given cultural feature was documented.



Glottobank is an international research consortium established to document and understand the world’s linguistic diversity. Glottobank team members have established five global databases documenting variation in language structure (Grambank), lexicon (Lexibank), paradigm systems (Parabank), numerals (Numeralbank), and phonetic changes (Phonobank).


The Database of Religious History (DRH)

The world’s first comprehensive online quantitative and qualitative encyclopedia of religious cultural history


Seshat: Global History Databank

Seshat was founded in 2011 to bring together the most current and comprehensive body of knowledge about human history in one place. The huge potential of this knowledge for testing theories about political and economic development has been largely untapped.

Our unique Databank systematically collects what is currently known about the social and political organization of human societies and how civilizations have evolved over time. This massive collection of historical information allows us and others to rigorously test different hypotheses about the rise and fall of large-scale societies across the globe and human history.


Kinbank: Database of Kinship terminology

Kinbank is a database of kinship terminologies ranging from grandparents to grandchildren, parent’s siblings and their children. You will find terminologies for 1229 languages, ranging from Aché to Zulu.


Cultural Distance database

Cultural distances between 80 countries based on responses to the World Values Survey.


School of Philosophy, Australian National University

School of Psychological Science, University of Western Australia


Adaptive Cognition and Economics in Society (ACES), Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University, Vienna

Complexity Science Hub, Vienna


Department of Biology, McGill University

Department of Psychology, UBC

Czech Republic

LEVYNA Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion, Masaryk University

Computing Culture & Society (CCS) lab, University of West Bohemia


Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University

School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University

Religion, Cognition and Culture Research Unit, Aarhus University


Department of Biblical Studies, University of Helsinki


Evolution and Social Cognition (ESC) group, École Normale Supérieure, Paris

Institute for Advanced Study, Toulouse


Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

Tools and Culture Among Early Hominins at Universität Tübingen


School of Zoology, Tel Aviv University

Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University


Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento


Meiji University, Tokyo

Kochi University of Technology, Kochi

Department of Behavioural Science, Hokkaido University


School of Collective Intelligence, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Rabat


Groningen Center for Social Complexity Studies

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen

New Zealand

Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington

Mind, Body, and Cultural Evolution Lab, Victoria University of Wellington


Department of Spanish, Linguistics, and Theory of Literature at University of Seville

Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), Barcelona


Discrete Mathematics and Modelling of Behaviour and Culture at Mälardalen University

Centre for Cultural Evolution, Stockholm University


Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne

Department of Organizational Behavior, University of Lausanne

United Kingdom

Abertay Language Lab, Abertay University

Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Bristol

Centre for Culture and Evolution, Brunel University, London

Centre for Language Evolution, Edinburgh University

Human Behaviour and Cultural Evolution Group / Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter (Penryn Campus)

Durham Cultural Evolution Research Centre, Durham University

Institute of Human Sciences, Oxford University

Calleva Research Centre for Evolution and Human Science, Oxford University

Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography, Oxford University

Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queen’s University Belfast

Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution (SLaCE), University of St Andrews

Department of Psychology, University of Stirling

United States

Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Evolutionary Anthropology Wing, Department of Anthropology, UC Davis

Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

Initiative for the Science of Human Past, Harvard University

Department of Anthropology, UCLA

Cognitive and Information Sciences, UC Merced

Social and Cultural Evolution Working Group at University of Pennsylvania

Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM

Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity (DySoC), University of Tennessee, Knoxville

If you would like to suggest additions to the lists above, please email [email protected]