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"How Culture Drove Human Evolution"

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on Tuesday, 18 September 2012 in Evolutionary Studies
Lecture by Joe Henrich
Professor and Canadian Research Chair of Psychology and Economic, University of British Columbia


November 9 (Friday), 3:30pm at Monsanto Auditorium


All are invited to the reception following the talk.


Sponsored by the Chancellor's Distinguished Visitor Fund, McQuinn Endowment, College of Arts and Science, Florence G. Kline Endowment in Philosophy,
Department of Psychological Sciences, Department of Anthropology, and the Evolutionary Studies Group.



Humans are a highly ecologically successful species. Long before the origins of agriculture, our species had spread from the frozen tundra of Siberia to the arid deserts of Australia. The secret of our success lies neither in the intelligence of individuals nor in an array of local genetic adaptations. Instead, unlike other species, humans are entirely dependent on large bodies of culturally-transmitted information that accumulates over generations in ways that build complex non-genetic adaptations to local environmental challenges. Drawing on evolutionary modeling, cross-cultural and cross-species comparisons, laboratory experiments on social learning, and quantitative ethnographic work in small-scale societies, I argue that our species’ long reliance on this second system of inheritance, and its ever accumulating and complex adaptive products, has driven the expansion of human brains while shaping our cognitive abilities, manual dexterity, status psychology, gut size, and social inclinations. More broadly, this research program suggests that understanding human evolution requires considering the interaction between genetic and cultural inheritance systems.


Professor Henrich's webpage: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/
A prequel to Professor's talk in the form of a video interview (with transcript) can be found in the latest issue of The Edge: https://edge.org/conversation/how-culture-drove-human-evolution
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