Satellite meeting

A Satellite Meeting will be organised before the EHBEA Paris conference:


Cultural Evolution by Cultural Attraction: Empirical Issues


Wednesday the 5th of April 2017 (from 9:00-17:00

Ecole Normale Supérieure (Amphithéâtre Rataud), 45 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris


Cultural Attraction Theory (CAT) is a framework for the development of natural scientific explanations of culture. It is based on the idea that cultural phenomena – cooking, languages, graphic systems, religious beliefs, or legal norms – spread and stabilize to the extent that they follow “factors of attraction”. These factors can take many forms – e.g., cognitive, biological, ecological, and so on. To take the case of cognitive attractors, CAT predicts that cultural phenomena that trigger evolved cognitive mechanisms such as disgust, object recognition, agent detection or the sense of fairness will be more likely to be understood, memorized and transmitted in a population. CAT has several points of contact with more mainstream approaches to cultural evolution, but also some important differences, particularly regarding the role of selection.

Moving on from theoretical discussion, this workshop will consider cultural attraction from an empirical perspective. We have gathered together eight researchers who aim, in their empirical work, at naturalistic, causal explanation of culture, and who make use of the tools and insights of CAT to different degrees (some to a large degree, others not so much). Our objective is to explore the extent to which CAT is a useful framework with which to propose and develop natural scientific explanations of culture.


9: 00 - 9:30 Introduction:

Thom Scott-Phillips, Central European University & Durham University


9:30 Morning session 1 (Chair: Nicolas Baumard):

9:30 - 10:00 Transformation and selection in cultural evolution Nicolas Claidière, CNRS, Marseille

10:00 - 10:30 Can cultural attraction get from theory to predictions? Olivier Morin, MPI Jena


10:30 - 10:45 : Coffee break


10:45 Morning session 2 (Chair Nicolas Claidière):

10:45 - 11:15 Three predictions for cultural attraction theory Alberto Acerbi, Eindhoven University of Technology

11:15 - 11:45 Reconstruction and replication in cultural transmission Monica Tamariz, Heriot-Watt University


12:00 - 13:00 Lunch in Espace Curie (Department of Cognitive Sciences, 29, rue d'Ulm)


13:00 Afternoon session 1 (Chair: Olivier Morin):

13:00 - 13:30 Kinship as a frequency dependent strategy Ruth Mace, University College London & Ting Ji, Chinese academey of sciences, Beijing

13:30 - 14:00 How can cultural attraction theory explain why cultures and sub-cultures look so different from one another? Daniel Nettle, University of Newcastle

14:00 - 14:30 Why do cultural attractors change over time, within the same tradition and without any external input? Nicolas Baumard, ENS, Paris


14:30 - 14:45 : Coffee break

14:45 Afternoon session 2 (Chair: Thom Scott Philipps):

14:45 - 15:15 Rethinking Cultural Attraction’s Role in Explaining Religion. Benjamin Purzycki, MPI, Leipzig

15:15 - 15:45 Argumentation and the spread of counter-intuitive beliefs Hugo Mercier, CNRS, Lyon


16:00 Discussion (Chair: Radu Umbres)

Dan Sperber, Central European University




Registration: Registration is free (send en email to Up to 50 participants can register. Registration is on a first come, first served basis. 

Questions? Contact Nicolas Baumard (


Nicolas Baumard
Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris

Nicolas Claidi
èreCNRS, Marseille

Olivier Morin
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena

Thom Scott-Phillips
Central European University & Durham University



Dowload the map here


 TO GO TO ESPACE CURIE (29 rue d'Ulm) FROM 45 RUE D'ULM : 

Downoad the pdf here.




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