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Grand challenges for the study of cultural evolution

The founding members of the Cultural Evolution Society were surveyed to identify the major scientific questions and ‘grand challenges’ currently facing the study of cultural evolution. We present the results and discuss the implications for an emergent synthesis in the study of culture based on Darwinian principles.

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Figure 1: Frequency and co-occurrences of themes identified in the grand challenges survey responses.


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The authors wish to thank the Evolution Institute and the University of Maryland for assisting with arrangements and providing space for the meetings in which the Cultural Evolution Society was organized and the grand challenges survey was developed. These organizational meetings and the analysis of the grand challenges survey results were funded through a grant to the Evolution Institute from the John Templeton Foundation.

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J.B. and I.F.M. conducted the grand challenges survey and processed the initial results. P.N.P. analysed the processed results to draft the preliminary list of grand challenges. All the authors evaluated the initial list of grand challenges and aided in parsing them to the final eight. J.B., I.F.M., P.N.P. and D.S.W. wrote the initial draft of the manuscript, and all the authors contributed to revisions.

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Correspondence to P. N. Peregrine.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Brewer, J., Gelfand, M., Jackson, J. et al. Grand challenges for the study of cultural evolution. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0070 (2017).

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