Integrative studies of cultural evolution: Crossing disciplinary boundaries to produce new insights

Oren Kolodny*, Marcus W. Feldman, Nicole Creanza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

14 Scopus citations


Culture evolves according to dynamics on multiple temporal scales, from individuals’ minute-by-minute behaviour to millennia of cultural accumulation that give rise to population-level differences. These dynamics act on a range of entities—including behavioural sequences, ideas and artefacts as well as individuals, populations and whole species—and involve mechanisms at multiple levels, from neurons in brains to inter-population interactions. Studying such complex phenomena requires an integration of perspectives from a diverse array of fields, as well as bridging gaps between traditionally disparate areas of study. In this article, which also serves as an introduction to the current special issue, we highlight some specific respects in which the study of cultural evolution has benefited and should continue to benefit from an integrative approach. We showcase a number of pioneering studies of cultural evolution that bring together numerous disciplines. These studies illustrate the value of perspectives from different fields for understanding cultural evolution, such as cognitive science and neuroanatomy, behavioural ecology, population dynamics, and evolutionary genetics. They also underscore the importance of understanding cultural processes when interpreting research about human genetics, neuroscience, behaviour and evolution.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20170048
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1743
StatePublished - 5 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Animal behaviour
  • Cognition
  • Cultural evolution
  • Ecology
  • Genetics
  • Interdisciplinary research


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