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Grand challenges for the study of cultural evolution

Nature Ecology & Evolution volume 1, Article number: 0070 (2017) | Download Citation

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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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.

Author information


  1. J. Brewer is at Cognitive Policy Works, Seattle, Washington 98122, USA.

    • J. Brewer
  2. M. Gelfand is at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.

    • M. Gelfand
  3. J. C. Jackson is at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.

    • J. C. Jackson
  4. I. F. MacDonald and D. S. Wilson are at Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York 13902, USA.

    • I. F. MacDonald
    •  & D. S. Wilson
  5. P. N. Peregrine is at Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin 54911 USA, and the Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, USA.

    • P. N. Peregrine
  6. P. J. Richerson is at the University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.

    • P. J. Richerson
  7. P. Turchin is at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269, USA.

    • P. Turchin
  8. H. Whitehouse is at Oxford University, Oxford OX1 4AU, UK.

    • H. Whitehouse


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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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to P. N. Peregrine.

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