What’s more important in storytelling: the teller or the tale?

In the beginning times, Taka and her younger brother Toro were rowing through a storm and crashed upon a rocky island in the sea. Taka stepped ashore and the sharp rocks cut her feet. Everywhere her blood touched, life sprung forth. The grasses and the trees took root and the people, our ancestors, arose from the drops of blood.

If I tell you a story, what will you remember? Will it be the social interactions that stick in your mind? The tricks for survival, the moral lessons—or the strange talking animals?

Will you remember more of the story if you hear it in a West Country British English accent, an Inland South American English accent, or from an “upper-class” BBC English speaker? 

In our Evolutionary Human Sciences paper we tried to answer this question. What matters more: the tale or the teller? In Prestige and content biases together shape the cultural transmission of narratives, Ricky Berl and Alarna Samarasinghe (PhD students then, now fully-fledged Drs), together with Sean Roberts, Michael Gavin, and I—used storytelling and re-telling as a means to address the interactions of content and context biases in cultural transmission.

Cultural evolution researchers who are interested in how information is transmitted between individuals theorise that there are a suite of social learning biases that can influence the ways in which aspects of culture are transmitted. Simply put, not all information has an equal chance of being transmitted from one person to another. Content biases are psychological preferences for certain types of information: social information like gossip, for example, or a bias towards counter-intuitive phenomena, like talking birds. Context biases, particularly model-based biases, refer to a bias for preferential learning from certain sources: people like ourselves, for example, or people with high prestige.

In our study, we were interested in how the prestige of the “model” (the storyteller) might interact with the content of the information to be passed on (the tale). Prestige is a very hard concept to study experimentally, because you can’t easily manipulate individuals to be prestigious (or not) to all of your study participants. Luckily, some of our team’s research interests are in evolutionary linguistics and linguistic anthropology, and we were influenced by work in sociolinguistics on accent prestige. While individuals do differ in their own judgements, national ratings of accent qualities such as prestige, friendliness, and trustworthiness can be remarkably consistent. 

In a couple of run-up studies, we surveyed the perceived qualities of a range of British and American English accents, and we developed a scale for assessing prestige based on accent information. We could then present stories to listeners (in the UK and the USA) in different accents that were locally-calibrated on measures of prestige. Surprisingly, there hasn’t been that much interaction between sociolinguistics and cultural evolution—odd, because researchers in both traditions are interested in the small-scale social interactions that affect the ways language and culture change over time! So we hope our study goes a little way towards inspiring more cross-over interactions between these fields.

Placing his fingers in his mouth, Toro blew a whistle so piercing that Puna fell from her perch in terror. From out of the jungle came a mass of red ants.

“Why do you call us?” they demanded in their many tiny voices.

“I am building a new island,” Toro announced, “And if you help me you can be the first to live there and can take the best homes for yourselves.”

So what did people hear in these accents? We presented people with creation narratives: stories telling the origins of people and places. Anthropologists and folklorists have collated and recorded creation stories from all over the world, and as part of our study we coded existing creation stories for the kinds of social learning biases that were present, as a baseline. But for our experiment, we commissioned a writer to create culturally non-specific stories. We wanted our participants to be unfamiliar with the stories, and we also felt it was important not to appropriate important cultural knowledge from indigenous communities. 

One story tells of Taka and Toro, two jealous seafaring siblings, and their competition over the friendship of the peoples that they created on different islands [read] [listen]. The other story explains how the actions of Muki, a child abandoned by its parents, shaped a rugged landscape and the varieties of life-forms that come into being [read] [listen]. The wonderful illustrations in this blog post are by Helen Spence-Jones (she takes commissions!).

In the beginning times, Mata and Pata had run away together from the place of their people, far away beyond the realm of the sky, farther away than the stars stretch. The elder ones had not approved of their marriage and so they fled to our world here, which was then only a vast plain. They had with them their Child, Muki, who was the source of their greatest joys.

Each of the stories was carefully constructed to have proportions of content that matched our ethnographic baseline, that is, numbers of propositions that reflected so-called biases for social, survival, moral, emotional, rational, and counter-intuitive information. Then, we had speakers with different accents read and record the stories. 

Participants from both the UK and the USA heard each story, one in a low- and one in a high-prestige accent. They then gave their best effort to re-tell them orally, with a clever online recording set-up. We transcribed these re-tellings, coded them for the content biases, and analysed what propositions were recalled as a function of accent prestige and a host of listener characteristics. This was an absolutely mammoth task, shouldered for the largest part by Ricky and Alarna, who can now recite those stories in their sleep! We’ve made all the transcripts available on the Open Science Framework site, and we hope they will be a wonderful rich resource for others to analyse with a host of different approaches.

Muki grabbed fists full of clay and scraped out steep valleys in the land. The Child’s tantrum churned up the hills as her kicking heels pounded in the earth. Her blood stained the clay, giving life, and she cried huge tears that became the Great River.

What did we expect to see? Back in 2013 when Mike Gavin and I were first discussing this idea, we thought it might be quite simple: we’d expect more recall overall when hearing a tale from a prestigious teller, but maybe we might see some interesting interactions with content. But we had no fixed colours to nail to the mast, or point to prove on any particular social learning bias. The important contribution was our study design, which allowed us to look at the interaction between content and models more intricately than had been done before, and which brought a real-world validity to the concept of prestige by using locally-calibrated accents.

The first finding was just how little people recalled: on average, only about 14% of the propositions in the stories. Perhaps that’s unfair, though. While listeners did know they’d be asked to recall a story, they only heard it once, and it was unfamiliar to them. People varied on overall recall, as you’d expect, but the variation had few predictors beyond a measure of working memory (you can see this in Fig 3 of the paper, below). So, if we were to do this again, one thing to vary would be the number of times people heard the story. It wasn’t practical to do this as a “live” transmission chain, but if that was possible, we could reflect a real-world storytelling environment more closely. 

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably on the edge of your seat for the punchline—what is it? Prestige of teller’s accent? Or content biases in the tale?

It’s complicated (sorry!) 

The prestige condition did not predict overall recall, so there’s no simple story. So asking your friend with a particular accent to record your lecture notes for revision purposes probably won’t work (for prestige reasons. It might work for other reasons!). In Figure 2 from the paper, you can also see that there’s no difference between high and low prestige accents for most  of the content biases, so there are no clear patterns there.

Figure 2

However, we did find that prestige impacted the recall of basic social information and “unbiased information”, that is, propositions in the stories without particular types of content predicted by theory. We then analysed a range of predictive models that included different combinations of story-based effects, the prestige condition, the presence or absence of each content bias, and participant demographics. Figure 3 shows those effects that had a positive or negative effect on recall. A number of the content biases had significant effects (odds ratios above 1): counterintuitive (biological violations), negative emotional, social, and survival biases. For a description of each of these biases, and examples, see Table 1 in the paper. Prestige had a significant effect, but this was smaller than the content. For these kinds of stories at least, some content is reliably sticky—and prestige gives listeners a leg-up as a recall strategy if the content isn’t “biased”.

Figure 3

There’s a lot more to say, both about the work presented in the paper and the project’s approach in general, but I’m in danger of repeating the paper (do go read it and ask questions!). Despite our original simple idea (“let’s use accent prestige as a nice real-world proxy, and test content and context biases together!”) it’s fair to say that this was much harder—conceptually, logistically, and in interpretation—than we originally expected. Creation stories presented a fantastic opportunity to test as many content biases as possible, but a challenge on the other hand, because creation narratives are relatively “low-stakes” for listeners and may be best suited to testing model familiarity biases (i.e. we might expect to hear such stories in familiar voices: we address this in the paper). 

As well, with hindsight I think we all wish we could have predicted the pandemic and looked at health messaging with this set-up. But hopefully others will take up the accent-prestige paradigm and use it fruitfully on all sorts of information-transmission domains! And we strongly encourage other researchers to avail themselves of the data we collected from all of our participant storytellers—there are some lovely gems in there, and we’re very grateful to all our participants.

Then out of the clay came our people, those who are our ancestors, because the land around Muki was good and fertile. The Child called Muki became the mountain that protects our village. We knew then as we do today that the Child must never be alone again, and we wait for Mata and Pata to return for her.




Cross-disciplinary anthropology & biology workshop Part 1: Behaviour

Anthropology & Biology cross-disciplinary workshop part 1: Behavioural science

Organisers: Fiona Jordan & Arsham Nejad Kourki

University of Bristol | 9 September 2020

There is fascinating research on the evolution of behaviour in many disciplines across the University of Bristol, particularly in biology and anthropology. We’re hosting a workshop to bring together postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers whose research interests relate to this broad topic and we warmly invite you to take part. The aim of the workshop is to stimulate dialogue between the two disciplines at a local scale, so don’t worry if you don’t already know much about what your peers in others discipline are doing—come along to find out!

The workshop will be held online and will also be open to non-UoB folk: please email Arsham for a Zoom login.


Session 1 | 10:00-10:50

Arsham Nejad Kourki | Levels of Selection and Major Transitions in Sociocultural Evolution

João Pinheiro | Is Cooperating Always the Good?: Analysing the Theory of Morality-as-Cooperation in Curry, Mullins & Whitehouse (2019)

Session 2 | 11:00-12:30

Terhi Honkola | Environment and Linguistic Divergence

Monique Borgerhoff-Mulder | Cultural group selection and the design of REDD+: insights from Pemba

Patrick Kennedy | Can you blackmail your relatives into altruism?

Lunch Break | 12:30-14:00

Session 3 | 14:00-14:50

Molly Beastall | The Effect of Socialisation on the Development of Pacific Beetle Cockroaches (Diploptera punctata)

Sarah Jelbert | Corvid cognition: Tool use in New Caledonian crows

Session 4 | 15:00-16:30

Innes Cuthill | Animal camouflage: evolutionary biology meets perceptual psychology

Tim Caro | Conspicuous coloration in mammals

Laszlo Talas | The cultural evolution of military camouflage

Closing Remarks | 16:20-16:30 | Fiona Jordan

We hope to hold Part 2: Phylogenies sometime later in the term, and will have a call for abstracts advertised in due course.

— Fiona & Arsham

Postdoc position in cultural phylogenetics

Applications extended and closing May 22nd: please note extended project date to November 2020.

We’re hiring! If you have skills in phylogenetic comparative methods, and you’re keen to understand cultural and linguistic diversity, then we have a one-year postdoc position on our VariKin project. Here’s the job ad:

Applications are invited for a position of Postdoctoral Research Assistant with expertise in phylogenetic analysis of cultural data. The post is a PDRA position in a European Research Council Starting Grant project entitled “VariKin: Cultural Evolution of Kinship Diversity” led by Prof Fiona Jordan in the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Bristol. We require an individual with expertise in phylogenetic comparative methods and the analysis of large linguistic and cultural datasets. The project team has amassed a large global database of kinship terms, and the objective for this role is to explore the cultural evolutionary dynamics and patterns of kinship terms.

The successful candidate will primarily be responsible for the design, implementation and analysis, and writing-up of two investigations. The post is offered on an open ended basis with fixed funding for 12 months. The project is due to come to an end November 30th 2020.

You will have a PhD in evolutionary approaches to biology, anthropology, or language, or a similar field. It is essential that you have skills in a range of phylogenetic comparative methods, particularly BayesTraits and relevant R packages. Phylogenetic inference skills to examine reticulation (e.g. NeighbourNet etc) may also be useful. Broad experience with quantitative and computational data analysis (preferably using R), and with parallel/cluster computing, is highly desirable. There will be an opportunity for further skills training. Preference will be given to candidates who have worked with cultural/linguistic datasets although this is not essential. You will require excellent organisational, communication and presentation skills. Experience with comparative data collection from written sources, database maintenance, and careful data curation are essential. You should demonstrate that you can engage in interdisciplinary collaborative work with the other VariKin team members. Your particular role will work closely alongside the PI and PhD student investigating kinship system evolution across cultures, but there is scope to contribute to other strands in the project (developmental field studies of children’s kinship knowledge, and cross-linguistic corpus analyses).

See the further particulars and apply through the UoB portal here. Please provide a cover letter that describes your skills and experience, your research interests, and details how you meet the criteria; and your current CV.

For informal enquiries please contact Fiona Jordan (Fiona.jordan@bristol.ac.uk) and see more of the project at https://excd.org/varikin.

VariKin on the radio

Fiona recently gave an overview of the VariKin project for CoastFM and SourceFM in Cornwall. She talked to Ben Makin on his Celebrity Science show about our three projects on kinship term evolution and the KinBank database, kinship language usage, and fieldwork on acquisition by children. The conversation ranged further into speculation on how the language technology of kinship systems might play a part in human evolution, and how far back we can extend our knowledge of human kinship.

The show aired on Wednesday 28 Nov 2018 18:00 and Thursday 29 Nov  2018 07:30. It’s now available on YouTube and here’s the link to listen again.  Fiona’s interview starts 29:20.

Stats corner: is the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample really standard?

Post by Péter Rácz.

We use large cross-cultural datasets to test theories of cultural evolution. These tests face what is commonly referred to as “Galton’s problem” (see here for an elegant overview). Since cultural traits co-evolve (think historical linguistics) and are traded freely in close proximity (think Sprachbund effects), their co-variance will be partly explained by shared ancestry and geographic proximity.

This co-variance is interesting in itself, but many theories of cultural evolution seek to form generalisations about human nature. In such cases, Galton’s problem has to be accounted for. One way to do this is to use statistical methods that take co-variance into account. Another way is to use a dataset that samples societies across phylogenies and geographic regions in a representative way.

As an inconsequential exercise, I compare one such dataset, the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS), with another, larger, non-representative dataset, the Ethnographic Atlas (EA). I access these through the D-Place database. The SCCS contains 195 societies, the EA 1290 societies. All the societies in the former are also part of the latter. This allows me to compare them directly, using the 95 cross-cultural variables in the EA.

My question is: How much variation is explained in the EA by shared ancestry and geographic proximity? How much, if any, variation do these explain in the SCCS?

In order to make a comparison, I choose the 85 categorical variables in the EA. Using an arbitrary cutoff in category size, I filtered out those variables which have a large number of small categories or where the largest category is “absent” (i.e. most societies do not really have this specific cultural practice). This left 55 variables, covering 70,100 / 120,000 observations across the 1290 societies in the EA.

I fit a binomial mixed-effects regression model (using Douglas Bates’ lme4 package in R) on each of these variables, predicting whether a society is in the largest category, and estimating an intercept, as well as a random intercept for language family and one for geographic region in D-Place. If the distribution of the largest category for the variable does not co-vary with ancestry and proximity, such a model would have very little explanatory power. If it does, the model should explain some variation in the dataset. This variation can be expressed using r², the fraction of the variation in the response variable that is explained by the model. By proxy, the r² will indicate how much the entire categorical variable co-varies with language family and region — a simple estimate of cultural co-variation.

Since the societies in the SCCS are a proper subset of the societies in the EA, I can re-fit these models on the SCCS sample only. If the SCCS sample is more representative than the EA (which has no aspirations of the sort), I expect the r² values to go down: less variation should be explained by shared ancestry and geographic proximity.

The r²-s for the 55 relevant models across the two datasets can be seen below. Bearing in mind a number of caveats (variable coding is simplistic, language family is a poor approximation of phylogeny, the SCCS sample is smaller, etc.), this can give us a sense of how much co-variation is present in the two samples.

Family and region explain less variance in the SCCS than in the EA, as expected. But their effect is not negligible.

The point here is not at all to give an accurate estimation of co-variation in the SCCS or the EA. Rather, it is to encourage the use of more sophisticated statistical methods (unlike the ones used in this post) and to propagate discretion in the use of the SCCS, because human culture is more complicated than it seems.

(For data, code, and methods in graphic detail, go here.)

Overview of the CAKTAM Workshop January 2018

Overview of the CAKTAM Workshop January 2018

Notions of family and kin terms vary in complexity and structure, so to what extent does linguistic and cultural variation affect the acquisition of kinship knowledge? While kinship provides the major framework for social organisation in many societies, we still know very little about how children learn to categorise different kinds of kin.  The ‘Children’s Acquisition of Kinship Knowledge: Theory and Method Workshop’, led by EXCD lab of University of Bristol, provided a unique opportunity to explore and refine ideas in this largely overlooked area of research. Early-career researchers and distinguished academics alike, from anthropology, linguistics and psychology, gathered at The Engine Shed, Bristol in late January 2018, to propose theories and share in discussion. The result was a truly stimulating event.

Kicking off the two-day workshop, Professor Fiona Jordan’s introduction emphasised the EXCD lab’s interdisciplinary approach, highlighting the restricted variation of kinship systems, the question of ‘unthinkable families’ and the notable diversity of cousin systems around the world. Eve Danziger, Professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Virginia, followed with a consideration of the syntactic and pragmatic parallels between kinship and spatial relationship terms, and their origins in “gesture-calls”. Using kinship acquisition data from her fieldwork with Mopan (Mayan) speakers, Eve showed how cultural elaboration of respect for elders complements the semantic feature “sex-of-senior”, producing cultural and cognitive consequences for sense of self.

Eve Clark, Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University, our second speaker of the day, offered interesting reflections on her pioneering 1974 study of the semantic complexity of kinship term acquisition using elicited definitions. This fresh perspective suggested further consideration should be given to children’s experience with kin terms in their communities, looking at both address and third-person reference.

Next, we heard from Bob Parkin, Emeritus Fellow of Oxford University’s School of Anthropology who considered the lack of current research on children’s learning of kinship within social anthropology. Bob’s presentation pointed towards the widespread anthropological objections to Malinowski’s extensionism, its unsuitability to all terminologies and its shortcomings as a universal theory of learning.  We then heard about infants’ observational learning skills from Tanya Broesch, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Simon Fraser University. Tanya told us about learning from behavioural cues such as infant-directed speech, gestures, and facial expressions and how these cues aid interpretation of complex group member information such as defining friend or foe. The talk included an overview of Tanya’s multi-methods, cross-cultural approaches and her current data, collected via natural observation in multiple societies.

After lunch, a close analysis of the acquisition of kinship concepts in Australian Murrinhpatha-speaking communities followed, with interactional linguist Joe Blythe, of Macquarie University. Joe’s personalised experiments involved photos of individuals from each child’s genealogy, along with pre-recorded audio clips and stick figure animations, in order to determine children’s comprehension of kinterms. Leading on from this, EXCD team member, linguistic anthropologist Alice Mitchell of the University of Bristol, presented preliminary findings into kinship learning among Datooga children of Tanzania, as studied over nine months of fieldwork. Initial observations focused on child-anchored kin terms as a source of information for children. She then considered children’s understanding of the kin term for ‘mother’ and the apparent resistance to the use of word when referring to classificatory mothers.

As the afternoon progressed, we heard from Francis Mollica of The Computational & Language Laboratory, University of Rochester. Using a probabilistic Language of Thought model, Frank discussed simulations scrutinizing how simplicity, data distributions and assumptions about relatedness interface, giving rise to behavioural effects observed in children. These included a trajectory from under- to over-extension of kinship terms, and, in the case over over-extensions, the characteristic-to-defining shift.  The next presentation, by Annie Spokes from Harvard University’s Department of Psychology explored conceptual understanding of kinship as a social category and expectations for social interactions in 3-5 year old children in the US. She also examined how infants track relationships in care-giving networks within the first two years of life, forming expectations and early inferences about kin.

Julia Nee of the Department of Linguistics at Berkeley addressed us for the final session of the day via video-link. Julia’s field research with Teotitlan del Valle Zapotec speakers allowed her to examine whether languages show an optimization of complexity and communicative cost in dividing up the semantic domain of kinship, compared with English-speaking participants. Having covered a great deal of ground on the first day, workshop attendees met for dinner in central Bristol during the evening and talked over research ideas and experiences.

Friday provided an opportunity to focus on research methods. Joe and Alice introduced the first hour with a talk on elicitation and experiments. Camilla Morelli, Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Bristol, then provided an overview of the use of visual and sensory methods in child-centred anthropology. Drawing on her ethnographic fieldwork with indigenous children in the Peruvian Amazon, Camilla suggested ways in which such techniques can be applied when investigating kinship and the acquisition of kinship knowledge.

After a morning break, we heard again from Joe and Alice who led a wide-ranging discussion about linguistic and corpus-based methods. This useful, interactive session provided an opportunity for a closer exploration of the various approaches. Their two methods talks covered questionnaires and surveys for eliciting definitions and factual information, stimuli-based tasks using photos and/or dolls, and collecting behavioural data, both linguistic and non-linguistic. The discussion provided an opportunity to appraise successes and difficulties encountered in each of the approaches and the group exchanged experiences in the field.

We were then delighted to hear presentations from three early-career Phd Researchers. Sheina Lew-Levey from Cambridge University’s Dept of Psychology outlined her recent findings into the transmission of foraging knowledge as well as social and gender norms through play, word-play and teaching among Mbendjele forager children in the Congo Basin. Noa Lavi of Cambridge’s Anthropology Dept followed, with an overview of kinship concepts and flexible patterns of relationality among the Nayaka, hunter-gatherers in Nilgiri, South India. Noa described how Nayaka children’s knowledge and knowledge acquisition are based on gradual learning of the ability to alternate between different kinship concepts. Lastly, Gabriella Piña, a social anthropologist from the London School of Economics, talked about her work with the Pehuenche people of Southern Chile. In this society, independence and freedom are highly valued and offset by the practice of visiting and hosting, to support collaboration and avoid tension. She examined children’s participation in these activities and how these practices develop their understanding of kin.

Friday afternoon was dedicated to a round-up discussion. The group gathered in an open session to exchange views on the creation of a ‘field-kit’ intended to aid the study of the acquisition of kinship terms, for use by the group and other researchers.

In addition, as an ongoing interest, the group intend to make a joint interdisciplinary contribution towards a forthcoming article which will address a universal set of concerns relating to kinship acquisition. Most notably, the event was the first of its kind in its interdisciplinary draw and related events are likely to follow. One of the most considerable outcomes of the workshop has been the momentum created for future ventures and collaborations around developing the questions of kinship, forming new ideas and attracting newer researchers from an even greater diversification of approaches.

Conversation across languages and cultures: Dr Joe Blythe

The past few weeks the lab has hosted Dr Joe Blythe as  Benjamin Meaker Visiting Fellow from the University of Bristol’s Institute for Advanced Studies (thanks IAS!).

Joe’s final event is this evening, and we’re delighted to be hosting his public lecture:

Conversation across languages and cultures: Cross-linguistic perspectives on taking turns to talk.


Thursday 8 February 2018

17:00 – 18.00 & drinks reception

Lecture Theatre 3, Woodland Road Arts Complex

CAKTAM Workshop Handbook and Programme

CAKTAM Workshop Handbook and Programme

Today we are delighted to welcome colleagues from around the globe as we meet for this evening’s opening of the CAKTAM Workshop.  Over the next few days we’ll be sharing and learning together, ideas and methods for children’s acquisition of kinship knowledge.

We’ll be keeping you updated on Twitter and providing an overview here of all the great moments after the event.  In the meantime, here’s the CAKTAM Handbook and Programme.

Children’s Acquisition of Kinship Knowledge: Theory and Method (CAKTAM) Workshop

 Upcoming Workshop

Children’s Acquisition of Kinship Knowledge: Theory and Method

25th-26th January 2018, Bristol, UK

How do children learn kinship concepts? Given that both kin terms and kinship systems vary in complexity,
to what extent does linguistic and cultural variation affect the acquisition of kinship knowledge?

For many societies around the world, kinship provides the major framework for social organisation, yet we know very little about how children learn to categorise different kinds of kin. This two-day workshop at the University of Bristol will bring together researchers working both directly and indirectly on children’s acquisition of kinship concepts to stimulate and refine research in an important area for the cognitive and social sciences.


We are keen to engage a broad range of theoretical and methodological perspectives on kinship acquisition. We aim to address the following questions:

  • What do children of different ages know about kinship?
  • In what contexts, and through what media, do children learn about kinship? (e.g., everyday conversation, ritual, narrative)
  • What cognitive abilities does the acquisition of kinship terminology depend on? Is there anything “special” about kinship as a cognitive domain?
  • What light can acquisition shed on semantic models of kinship terms?
  • Do children differentiate close vs distant kin? How do they learn to classify the latter?
  • How does socio-cultural context affect the acquisition of kinship terms?
  • How, when, and why do children talk about kinship?
  • To what extent does complexity affect learning of kinship concepts?
  • To what extent do children differentiate kin from non-kin? How does this change over the course of development?
  • How is kinship represented in play?
  • How should we go about studying children’s acquisition of kinship concepts?


Our key speakers for the workshop include:

Joe Blythe                 (Linguistics, Macquarie)

Tanya Broesch         (Psychology, Simon Fraser)

Eve Clark                   (Linguistics, Stanford)

Eve Danziger            (Anthropology, Virginia)

Alice Mitchell           (Anthropology, Bristol)

Bob Parkin                (Anthropology, Oxford)

Annie Spokes           (Psychology, Harvard)


You are warmly invited to CAKTAM and invited to contribute as a participant or attendee.

We are very happy to invite additional contributions for 20-minute talks that respond to one or more of our guiding questions. Scholars from any relevant discipline are welcome, including but not limited to anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, education, social work etc.

We would also like to encourage postgraduate students and early career researchers who may be interested in conducting research on children’s acquisition of kinship terms to attend the workshop. We will ask these participants to provide a short description of their research background for the workshop handbook, and, optionally, for those with an active or potential field site, to give a short, informal talk (5-10 minutes) discussing what this kind of research might look like in their particular research setting.

Short abstracts (200 words) for 20 minute talks, and brief expressions of interest in informal talks, should be submitted to varikin-project@bristol.ac.uk by 31st December.

In all cases, please email to express your interest in attending the workshop.

There is no registration fee for the workshop and lunches and refreshments will be provided. We are able to host up to 40 attendees and participants, so please contact us as soon as possible to reserve a place. We will provide attendees with travel directions and suggestions for local hotels.

A small amount of funding is available to help towards economy travel costs for students and early career researchers: please contact us for further details.

Workshop Organisers
Fiona Jordan
Alice Mitchell
Joe Blythe
Jo Hickey-Hall

Contact email: varikin-project@bristol.ac.uk

CAKTAM is a research activity of the ERC-funded VariKin project, hosted at the University of Bristol and led by Professor Fiona Jordan (https://excd.org/research-activities/#varikin).




Download Flyer

Handbook for CAKTAM Workshop

Journal Club roundup

Post by Catherine

We at the excd.lab are a highly interdisciplinary bunch, with backgrounds spanning anthropology, linguistics, psychology, philosophy, music, biology, and statistics. Nowhere is this more evident than in our weekly journal club, where we come together (in an archaeology laboratory!) to discuss cultural evolution and learn more about each other’s areas of research.

The first rotation of papers was intended to be an introduction to each other’s fields. If you could inflict on (er, ‘present to’) your colleagues one paper from your specialty, what would it be?



The second set of journal club readings fell under the theme ‘classic papers in your field.’ What early paper in your field’s history best showcases why your specialty is so exciting? Note: we interpreted ‘early’ in a metaphorical sense.



The third sequence of papers explicitly focused on the present day. What’s an exciting paper in your field from the past few years?



We’re now partway into our fourth cycle of journal club papers. We don’t have a theme so far, aside from the entirely independent selection of two papers by Richard McElreath, but we’re beginning to learn what sort of papers make for interesting journal club discussions. Ideally, we’re looking for papers that bring together big ideas from multiple disciplines, that clearly explain their hypotheses and methodologies to a generalist audience, and that have implications that we can tie into our own specialities. (Easier said than done, right?!)



What papers have you been reading recently? Do you have any suggestions for our lab group? Let us know in the comments here or on Twitter, @excd_lab!