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Humanity’s culture sets it apart from other animals. Grasping its dynamics and interaction with both our genes and environment, enriches understanding of our species’ unique evolutionary history and ability to flourish in a world in which human activities cause drastic environmental and societal changes. Yet cultural evolution raises a particular challenge: as a complex phenomenon involving interactions of biology, cognition and social processes, its comprehension requires intensive efforts to integrate perspectives from diverse disciplines and cultures.

The Cultural Evolution Society requests a major grant to transform the study of cultural evolution by funding 16 research projects and 5 applied working groups. The projects will address fundamental questions in cultural evolution and human futures, namely: (i) causes and consequences of variation in creativity and imagination (and its impacts on evolution of technology, arts, and education); (ii) cultural influences on access to ‘reality’ (and impacts on our rationality/reasoning, responses to potential futures, and misinformation); (iii) globalization’s impact on cultures (such as inequalities, cultural erosion, ‘invading’ ideas, and benefits of hyper-connectedness); and (iv) applying cultural evolution research to societal issues (such as public policy, medicine, education and politics). The working groups will host workshops enabling cultural evolution insights to benefit policy interventions, politics, business, and conservation goals.

The rigor and transformative potential of the grant is secured by a robust funding competition and support activities designed to enhance diversity, and draw in researchers at varied career stages, from new disciplines and crucially the underrepresented global south, to grow the field.

The outcome will be a richer, more diverse, and better-established field of cultural evolution, creating potential for a deeper understanding of humanity and how to benefit its future.