2017 » Theme

Innovation plays a critical role in the emergence and spread of new behaviours within both non-human and human culture. Despite this, research on innovation in animals and cultural evolution has only recently begun to gain momentum. Our understanding of the developmental origins of innovation is still only fragmentary. To date, there is still no agreed upon definition of innovation. Even though there has been some fruitful cross-fertilization across disciplines, there is still scope for the exchange of ideas, concepts, and findings between the fields.

Several crucial questions on innovation remain unanswered (see below), and discussion between the disciplines that study innovation is still rare. With this conference, we hope to support the growing interest in the field and the exchange of ideas between the disciplines.



We will bring together researchers from all career levels from various disciplines, including (but not limited to) biology, psychology, anthropology, archaeology, animal behaviour and philosophy. We envision topics such as:

  • How can innovation be defined? Is there a minimal definition that all disciplines can agree on?
  • What is the role of innovation for cultural evolution in non-human and human species?
  • What role does innovation play for the emergence of cumulative culture?
  • What do we know about processes of innovation on an individual level and on a group level?
  • Are some individuals more likely to innovate? If so, what makes an ‘innovator’?
  • How do the different fields experimentally test innovations in human and non-human animals?
  • What is the difference between non-human and human innovation?