advancing cultural evolutionary studies

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About Us

The Cultural Evolution Society is a professional scientific society that advances the theory and practice of cultural evolutionary studies. Our goal is to build capacity for researchers, educators, and practitioners to coordinate efforts.

Why a new society?
Our capacity for culture stems from our ability to receive, process, integrate, and transmit information across generations. The study of human culture and cultural change has made great strides during the last few decades in fields such as anthropology, computer science, evolutionary biology, neurobiology, psychology, and sociology. A great deal of progress has been made in parallel with the study of animal behavior in primate studies, ethology more broadly, and the various ecological sciences. Yet, the study of cultural change as an evolutionary process, similar to genetic evolution but with its own inheritance mechanisms, is only now becoming a central area of scientific inquiry that spans these disciplines and holds much potential for academic integration.

Outside the Ivory Tower, all public policies attempt to accomplish cultural change in a practical sense to reach their various objectives, yet they rarely draw upon an explicit scientific theory of cultural change. A new society is needed to catalyze the study of cultural change from a modern evolutionary perspective, both inside and outside the Ivory Tower.

A 2015 Evolution Institute workshop, “Advancing the Study of Cultural Evolution: Academic Integration and Policy Applications,” laid the groundwork for the formation of this society. The workshop was organized by Michele Gelfand, a cultural psychologist at the University of Maryland, and the biologist David Sloan Wilson.

The participants represented a melting pot of disciplines that need to become integrated to create a science of cultural change informed by evolutionary theory. They strongly endorsed the need for a society to accomplish the objectives identified during the workshop.

What does the CES do?
We envision an active society that does much more than publish a journal and host an annual meeting. One of our first items of business was to collectively identify “Grand Challenges” in the study of cultural evolution which were later published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution; these help define the agenda of the society. We have just elected the first Executive Committee and are working toward the creation of basic scientific research programs and practical initiatives to tackle the Grand Challenges. We expect scientific research and real-world solutions to go together through the creation of field sites for the study of cultural evolution, similar to biological field sites or those found in anthropology and archeology. 

The Executive Committee
We are delighted to have a large and diverse leadership team for the Cultural Evolution Society. The structure of this Executive Committee reflects our dedication to diversity as critical to serving the mission of this society—with the standard roles for president, secretary, and treasurer supported with eight additional members-at-large (and two student representatives), as well as past president and president-elect. The Executive represent diverse research fields and geographic regions where our members are active.

The 2023 Executive Committee

  • Sarah Mathew, President
  • Alex Mesoudi, President-Elect
  • Rachel Kendal, Past President
  • Nicole Creanza, Treasurer
  • Adrian Bell, Secretary
  • Simon Greenhill, Awards Officer
  • Tim Waring, Membership Secretary
  • Natalia Dutra, Conference Liaison
  • John Bunce, Conference Liaison
  • Nicole Wen, Elections Officer
  • Lucy Aplin, Social Media Outreach
  • Cristina Moya, Wikipedia Content Development
  • Maxime Derex, ACE Awards
  • Feryl Badiani, Student Representative 
  • Hideo Daikoku, Student Representative

Past Presidents

  • Rachel Kendal
  • Kevin Laland
  • Peter Richerson

Past Executive Members

  • Kenichi Aoki
  • Robert Boyd
  • Michele Gelfand
  • Russell Gray
  • Joshua Jackson
  • Purity Kiura
  • Alex Mesoudi
  • Sumitava Mukherjee 
  • Nicole Wen
  • Monique Borgerhoff Mulder
  • Fiona Jordan
  • Juliet Dunstone
  • Carol Ember
  • Michelle Kline
  • Patrícia Izar
  • Kenny Smith
  • Masanori Takezawa

Who should join the CES?

We encourage the following people to become founding members:

  • Academic professionals, graduate students, and undergraduate students from any discipline relevant to cultural evolution. We especially encourage the next generation of scientists to become involved.
  • Anyone (professional or nonprofessional) who is trying to accomplish positive cultural change in the real world and who would like to base their efforts on a rigorously scientific cultural evolutionary theory.
  • Anyone (professional or nonprofessional) with an intellectual interest in cultural evolutionary theory who would like to get involved and support the rapidly maturing field.
  • We are especially eager for our members to come from all around the world—an appropriate ideal for a Cultural Evolution Society!

What will happen right away?
When you become a member:

  • You will be added to our mailing list to receive regular communications.
  • You will be consulted, if you desire, to provide input in the governence of the society and important decisions concerning dues, an annual conference, and a journal.
  • You can help us identify grand challenges for the study of cultural evolution.
  • You can get involved in the projects that we create to tackle the grand challenges.

Please help us recruit members by bringing our invitation to the attention of your friends and associates! We aim to be inclusive and diverse.