2015 » Theme

Culture – in the form of cultural artefacts and socially transmitted behaviors – plays a crucial part of the lives of humans and non-human great apes. It has evolved as a ‘second inheritance system’ as it allows species to adapt much faster to environmental challenges than genes. What are the origins of culture in humans and non-humans and how is cultural knowledge transmitted over generations?

The study of culture involves many different disciplines and varied methodological approaches. For example, archaeologists aim at recording and reconstructing past culture; anthropologists observe or interact with people of different cultures. Biologists observe primate cultural behaviors in the wild and carry out tests with captive individuals; psychologists run behavioral experiments with humans of all ages to identify culture’s cognitive underpinnings. Researchers with an interest in mathematical modelling try to simulate cultural transmission processes and to determine factors influencing these processes. How do these different disciplines define culture? Which answers do they find to questions regarding the origins and transmission of culture? And which biases might accompany their methodological approaches?

The aim of this conference is to bring together researchers from all the different disciplines to discuss the origins of culture (for both humans and non-humans), how it evolved, and how we can study these changes. We expect delegates to learn more about how different disciplines tackle the same questions, to reflect on how their work relates to other research areas, and to see whether certain approaches are transferable to other disciplines. The conference will provide an excellent opportunity to establish links to researchers from other disciplines, especially for young academics.