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Extension of Biology Through Culture

 November 16-17, 2016; Irvine, CA
 Organized by Marcus Feldman, Francisco J. Ayala, Andrew Whiten, and Kevin Laland


This colloquium was held in Irvine, CA on November 16-17, 2016.

The goal of this colloquium was to explore the cultural transmission of behavior and artefacts not only in our own species but also many non-human animals with a ‘second inheritance system’, built on the evolutionary foundations of the genetic inheritance system, but extending and interacting with it, in new and significant ways. Research on both human and animal social learning and traditions has burgeoned in recent years with many new and exciting insights and discoveries, often built through new methodological approaches. This meeting will survey the growing points in this field, ranging widely over the animal kingdom including our own supremely cultural species. The colloquium will pursue a cluster of topical, inter-related questions that are being answered in exciting and often surprising ways by ongoing research.

Videos of the talks are availble on the Sackler YouTube Channel.


Wednesday, November 16

Session I

  Welcome Remarks, Marcus Feldman, Stanford University

  Evolution and Revolution in Cetacean Vocal Culture: Lessons from Humpback Whale Song, Ellen Garland, University of St Andrews

  Gene-culture Coevolution in Whales and Dolphins, Hal Whitehead, Dalhousie University Halifax

  Cultural Legacies: Unpacking the Inter-Generational Transmission of Information in Birds, Lucy Aplin, University of Oxford

  What Evolves in the Evolution of Social learning? A Social Insect Perspective, Elli Leadbeater, Royal Holloway University of London

Session II

  Can Culture Re-shape the Evolution of Learning and How?, Arnon Lotem, Tel Aviv University

  What Long Term Field Studies Reveal of Primate Traditions, Susan Perry and Brendan Barrett, University of California, Los Angeles

  Can We Identify a Primate Signature in Social Learning?, Dorothy Fragaszy, University of Georgia

  The Evolution of Primate Intelligence, Kevin Laland, University of St Andrews, UK

  Distinctive Voices Public Lecture
        How Animal Cultures Extend the Scope of Biology: Tradition and Learning from Apes to Whales to Bees, Andrew Whiten, University of St Andrews, UK

Thursday, November 17
Session III

   Skill Learning, Neuroplasticity, and Exaptation in the Evolution of Human Tool-Making and Language, Dietrich Stout, Emory University

   The Role of Cultural Innovations, Learning Processes, and Ecological Dynamics in Shaping Middle Stone Age Cultural Adaptations, Francesco d’Errico, University of Bordeaux, France

   The Ontogenetic Foundations of Cumulative Cultural Transmission, Cristine Legare, University of Texas, Austin 

  "I Don't Know": Ignorance and Question-asking as Engines for Cognitive Development, Paul Harris, Harvard University

Session IV

  Childhood as Simulated Annealing: How Wide Hypothesis Exploration in an Extended Childhood Contributes to Cultural Learning, Alison Gopnik, University of California, Berkeley

  How Language Shapes the Nature of Cultural Inheritance, Susan Gelman, University of Michigan

  Big Data, Cultural Macroevolution and the Prospects for an Evolutionary Science of Human History, Russel Gray, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany 

  Ongoing Prospects for a Unified Science of Cultural Evolution, Alex Mesoudi, University of Exeter, UK

  Concluding Remarks, Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine

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