Major evolutionary transitions
Major evolutionary transitions. By Myworkforwiki [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped version.

How humans became cultural beings is the central research question in our Wallenberg project Evolutionary transitions in humans. To answer this question, among other things, we need to understand animals' cognitive mechanisms and in what way humans are different.

We have carried out a comprehensive analysis of what is known about animal behaviour and cognitive mechansims, including hominoids (Lind et al. 2015, 2017; Enquist et al. 2016; Ghirlanda et al. 2017; Ghirlanda & Lind 2017). This has resulted in a model for the cognitive faculty that can explain why culture among animals is limited to simple traditions.

Standard explanations for how the unique human being evolved build on comprehensive genetic changes where culture plays a minor role. We have developed an alternative hypothesis where the genetic changes are more limited and cultural evolution has a more substantial bearing on understanding human evolution. Among other things, we have studied how self-organisation is possible in cultural evolution, and this can shape not only the content of culture, but also the evolutionary process in itself (Enquist et al. 2017).