Junior Research Programs

Tutorial: An Introduction To Modelling and Quantitative Analyses of the Cultural Evolution of Human Social Systems


Human social systems are extraordinarily complex and diverse. Around the world, people are organized into different societies that are structured by a variety of different institutions, social norms, beliefs, languages, and other aspect of culture. Understanding how societies function and why societies are the way they are, are topics of interest to a wide variety of different academic disciplines. Modern Cultural Evolutionary thinking involves understanding that culture can be thought of as a system of non–genetic inheritance. This enables us build upon theories & methods from evolutionary biology and adapt them appropriately in order to develop hypotheses about how and why culture and societies change over time. This approach aims to bring together and connect insights from different disciplines. Some of the issues that human evolutionary scientists address are: how societies have adapted to different environmental contexts and challenges, what processes shape the similarities and differences between human societies across space and time, and how different cultural histories have shaped the world we live in today. In this workshop we will provide and introduction to cultural evolutionary thinking and how it can be used to develop and test hypotheses about human social systems. In part I, we will introduce the conceptual background to cultural evolutionary approaches, and how we can develop models that represent cultural and social change. In part II, we will discuss how we can test hypotheses about cultural evolution using data, and the importance of assessing the evidence for different explanations. In both sections of the workshop we will start with a lecture introducing the topic, and then have a practical session where you will get a chance to have "hands–on" engagement with these issues. No prior experience, or mathematical/statistical knowledge is required to take part in the workshop.

* On–site participants are requested to bring their own PCs.
* Please note that we will not be able to provide troubleshooting services to online participants.


Friday, August 19, 2022 9:00 – 16:00


  • On–site: TOKYO ELECTRON House of Creativity 3F, Lecture Theater, Katahira Campus, Tohoku University [Access]
  • Online: Zoom Webinar hosted by Tohoku Forum for Creativity
    • Capacity

      On–site: 20


      Thomas Currie (University of Exeter)


      Registration deadline: Tuesday, August 16, 2022 17:00 (JST)
      – Closed

      Time Schedule

      Part I:
      09:00 – 10:00
      Lecture: Human Cultural Evolution: Questions, Concepts, and Models
      10:00 – 12:00
      Practical: Understanding simple models of social evolution
      12:00 – 13:00
      Lunch Break
      Part II:
      13:00 – 14:00
      Lecture: Testing hypotheses in Cultural Evolution using empirical data
      14:00 – 16:00
      Practical: Cross–cultural and historical comparative datasets, and the opportunities and challenges of statistical analyses

      In cooperation with

      Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Tohoku University
      Humanities Program, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hiroshima University


      Email: takao.koga.a2*tohoku.ac.jp (change * to @)