16 Research Projects
4 Applied Working Groups

Research Project Themes

The themes represent areas where there are currently gaps in knowledge and/or opportunities for new disciplinary synthesis, or domains in which we foresee likely benefits to bringing in disciplinary experts to apply an evolutionary approach to understand change in cultural variation both within and between populations.

Variation in Creativity and Imagination (both across cultures and between species)
Considers the impact that variation in cultural influences has on the evolution of our technology, as well as art, music, language and religion. We may also understand the influence of cultural norms and different educational practices on creativity throughout the lifetime.
Impact of Globalization on Cultures
Considers the effects of our interdependent world and the hyper-availability of online information to enormous global audiences. We also face cooperative dilemmas on a global scale (e.g. climate change, pandemics), and the merging of humanity into a single “effective population” may have negative impacts on knowledge diversity and adaptability to new challenges.
Cultural Influences on Access to ‘Reality’
(or our rationality)
Diverse disciplines focus on human ‘irrationality’ and on how this may be ‘sensible’ in a world of uncertainty where facts are not a perfect guide. We research cultural influence on our perceived realities, and ability to imagine future ones, and on how, or why, we transmit ‘fake news’.
Applying Cultural Evolution to Enhance Global Human Futures
Understanding of cultural transmission, and the various biases in when and whom individuals learn from, may be used to enhance the spread of desired behaviours and to combat misinformation. Cultural Evolution research can also inform ‘Behavioural Insights’ or ‘nudge’ theories, used by institutions globally in an attempt to improve public policy.

Applied Working Groups

Alongside the funding of the Research Projects, the grant also funds Applied Working Groups. These are designed by the applicants, to implement Cultural Evolution initiatives with real impact on, for example, policy (e.g. public health, education), politics, business, climate change, conservation and welfare. Each Applied Working Group will organise an international workshop. These workshops will include conversations between academics and relevant non-academics to disseminate Cultural Evolution insights to the general public and engage policymakers in using Cultural Evolution to help solve current and future real-world problems. There may also be the opportunity to join Applied Working Groups once they are up and running. If you would be interested in joining one of the Applied Working Groups, please let us know by emailing ces.transformationfund@durham.ac.uk.

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