Category Archives: Conferences

SSHRC Impact Awards Talk in Ottawa, Ontario

As a Top 5 winner of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC) Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers challenge, I was invited to present our research on the Database of Religious History at the SSHRC Impact Awards ceremony in Ottawa, Ontario.

It was an honor to meet the the Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Lloyd Johnston, SSHRC’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Ted Hewitt, SSHRC’s Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges, Ursula Gobel (who I previously met at SSHRC Congress), CBC host of Ideas, Paul Kennedy, and the winners of the SSHRC Impact AwardsBeverley DiamondThomas LemieuxNico TrocméWendy Craig, and Kirk Luther.

You can watch my talk below:

The Database of Religious History has been featured in several places, including canada.ca. See my previous News post for more details.

SSHRC Impact Awards

Top Row (Left to Right): Robin MacEwan, Michael Muthukrishna, James O’Callaghan, Ted Hewitt (Executive Vice President, SSHRC), Hon. David Johnston, Ursula Gobel (Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges, SSHRC), Vineeth Sekharan, Marylynn Steckley

Bottom Row (Left to Right): Thomas Lemiux (Insight Award), Nico Trocmé (Connection Award), Beverley Diamond (Gold Medal), Wendy Craig (Partnership Award), Kirk Luther (Talent Award)

Developing Best Practices for Teaching Evolution in the Social Sciences NESCent Meeting in Durham, North Carolina

I and twenty-nine other scholars from the social and biological sciences met to discuss Developing Best Practices for Teaching Evolution in the Social Sciences.

Cristine Legare, Andrew Shtulman, and John Opfer did a flawless job in organizing and leading the Catalysis Meeting at the NSF funded National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, North Carolina.

We discussed the obstacles, pedagogical techniques, and methods of assessment in teaching evolution. The next step is find ways to convey these best practices to the broader research and teaching community. Possible products include a suggested curriculum and white paper outlining best practices.

Other attendees included:

Tanya Broesch (Simon Fraser University)
Justin Busch (University of Texas at Austin)
David Buss (University of Texas at Austin)
Maciek Chudek (Arizona State University)
Julia Clarke (University of Texas at Austin)
Dan Conroy-Beam (University of Texas at Austin)
Benjamin Cox (University of Texas at Austin)
Margaret Evans (University of Michigan)
Erin Furtak (University of Colorado Boulder)
Cari Goetz (University of Texas at Austin)
Katie Hinde (Harvard University)
Michelle Kline (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Rob Kurzban (University of Pennsylvania)
Rose McDermott (Brown University)
Marie Monfils (University of Texas at Austin)
Robin Nelson (Skidmore College)
Lars Penke (University of Goettingen)
David Rakison (Carnegie Mellon University)
Matt Rossano (Southeastern Louisiana University)
Joshua Rottman (Boston University)
Laurie Santos (Yale University)
Mark Schaller (University of British Columbia)
Gale Sinatra (University of Southern California)
Bill von Hippel (University of Queensland)
Rachel Watson-Jones (University of Texas at Austin)
Deena Weisberg (University of Pennsylvania)

NESCent2014

 

Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference in Natal, Brazil

I attended the 26th Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) Conference in Natal, Brazil. I gave a talk on the Cultural Brain Hypothesis and the Cumulative Cultural Brain Hypothesis.

The paper (in prep), co-authored with Maciek Chudek and Joe Henrich, describes an evolutionary model of the evolution of brains and parsimoniously explains several empirical relationships between brain size, group size, social learning, mating structures, culture, and the juvenile period. The model also describes the selection pressures that may have led humans into the realm of cumulative cultural evolution, further driving up the human brain size.

Digital Humanities Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland

I attended the Digital Humanities 2014 conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. Ted Slingerland, Brenton Sullivan, and I presented “A Large Database Approach to Cultural History”. We presented the goals, approach, design, challenges, and progress of the Database of Religious History.

As Technical Director of the project, I focused on the technical aspects. You can read more about our efforts to publicize the database here and here.

SSHRC Storytellers Competition Top 5 Winner, St Catharines, Ontario

As one of the 25 finalists, I spent the last few days at Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2014 at Brock University in St Catharines, Ontario. My talk on the Database of Religious History was selected as one of 5 winners of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers challenge. The research was featured on the Federal Government’s official website, canada.ca (image below).

I was invited by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to elaborate on the vision and achievements of the Database of Religious History, complementing the winning video, which you can watch below:

The panel of 4 judges included Shari Graydon, author, journalist and founder of Informed Opinions; Antonia Maioni, president of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences; Pierre Normand, Vice-President, External Relations and Communications at the Canada Foundation for Innovation; and Bruce Wallace, editor of Policy Options magazine and former foreign editor for the Los Angeles Times.

I will be presenting the same talk to a VIP audience at SSHRC’s 2014 Impact Awards ceremony in early November.

canada.ca

Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Conference in Austin, Texas

I attended the 15th Annual Meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in Austin, Texas. I presented a model at the Dynamical Systems and Computational Modeling in Social Psychology preconference. The model uses two principles of human decision making to produce the three key properties of human social networks – high clustering (a friend of a friend is likely your friend), low characteristic path length (“6 degrees of separation”), and a positively skewed degree distribution (most people have a few friends, but a few people have many friends).

My collaborator and advisor, Mark Schaller, presented a related model at a symposium on “The Role of Interpersonal Processes in Group Phenomena and Cultural Development”. The model presented some preliminary research using the model I presented to better understand the dynamics of social influence within social networks.

Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference in Miami, Florida

I attended the 25th Annual Meeting of Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) in Miami, Florida. I gave a talk on two laboratory experiments I ran on cultural transmission (in press). The experiments tested the predictions of several evolutionary models showing the relationship between sociality (population size, interconnectedness, etc) and cultural complexity.

My results show that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group’s average skill over successive laboratory generations. These results suggest that the secret of our species’ success may lie in the combination of our imitative abilities and our sociality, not in our individual smarts.

Sante Fe Institute Workshop on Network Structure, Political Hierarchy and Economic Inequality

I was invited to a workshop on Network Structure, Political Hierarchy and Economic Inequality at the Sante Fe Institute. The workshop, organized by Sam Bowles and Paul Hooper, brought together leading contributors to the theoretical literature on social networks, anthropologists and other field researchers using network techniques to study the social structure of small-scale societies. I had the opportunity to discuss social network analysis and its application to the study of social structures and culture with several lead social network researchers, including Matt Jackson and Rajiv Sethi.

The project is part of the Santa Fe Institute’s Dynamics of Wealth Inequality Project.

Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana

I attended the 14th Annual Meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in New Orleans, Louisiana. I presented a poster with results from two laboratory experiments I ran on cultural transmission. The experiments tested the predictions of several evolutionary models showing the relationship between sociality (population size, interconnectedness, etc) and cultural complexity.

My results show that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group’s average skill over successive laboratory generations. These results suggest that the secret of our species’ success may lie in the combination of our imitative abilities and our sociality, not in our individual smarts.

Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I attended the 24th Annual Meeting of Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I presented a poster with further results from my model of the coevolution of brains and culture. The model is a plausible explanation for the expansion of the human brain size during the Pleistocene.

Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Conference in San Diego, California

I attended the 13th Annual Meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in San Diego, California. I presented a poster at the Evolutionary Preconference with preliminary results from my model of the coevolution of brains and culture. The model is a plausible explanation for the expansion of the human brain size during the Pleistocene.