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The cultural evolution and ecology of institutions: An integrated evolutionary approach to the interrelated rules that regulate human social organization and cooperation

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "EVORULES" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
city: EXETER
postcode: EX4 4QJ

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country United Kingdom [UK]
 Total cost 1˙499˙462 €
 EC max contribution 1˙499˙462 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2016-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2017
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2017-09-01   to  2022-08-31


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UK (EXETER) coordinator 1˙499˙462.00


 Project objective

Humans live in groups of huge numbers of genetically unrelated individuals due to culturally-inherited social rules (“institutions”) that structure groups and provide solutions to coordination and collective action problems. However, only in certain places have societies developed more “inclusive” institutions (e.g. democratic governance, the rule of law) that enable the majority of the population (not just elites) to participate in economic and political activities. Fundamental questions about the evolution of institutions still remain. This project will go beyond existing research by employing an overarching cultural evolutionary framework to address a number of outstanding issues such as: How do institutions evolve over time?, How do cultural and ecological factors affect how institutions emerge and spread?, Why have certain institutions emerged or been adopted in only a limited number of places? I will apply innovative statistical, computational and theoretical models from biology to formally and rigorously test a range of hypotheses concerning the evolution of institutions. The project has 3 main objectives (O). In O1 I will use phylogenetic methods to infer the entangled evolutionary history of the institutions that groups possess. In O2 I will employ epidemiological and comparative statistical models, to investigate what factors affect the probability of institutions spreading between societies. In O3 I will use computer simulations to examine how ecological and social factors have led to the emergence of institutions for collective action in some parts of the world but not others. The objectives of this project therefore involve both modelling and empirically assessing theories using cross-national and historical data on institutions and other relevant variables. This more integrated approach will create a step-change in our understanding of institutional change and how evolutionary and ecological processes have shaped the world we live in today.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter François, Patrick E. Savage, Thomas E. Currie, Kevin C. Feeney, Enrico Cioni, Rosalind Purcell, Robert M. Ross, Jennifer Larson, John Baines, Barend ter Haar, Alan Covey, Peter Turchin
Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history
published pages: 226-229, ISSN: 0028-0836, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4
Nature 568/7751 2019-10-08
2018 Peter Turchin, Thomas E. Currie, Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter François, Kevin Feeney, Daniel Mullins, Daniel Hoyer, Christina Collins, Stephanie Grohmann, Patrick Savage, Gavin Mendel-Gleason, Edward Turner, Agathe Dupeyron, Enrico Cioni, Jenny Reddish, Jill Levine, Greine Jordan, Eva Brandl, Alice Williams, Rudolf Cesaretti, Marta Krueger, Alessandro Ceccarelli, Joe Figliulo-Rosswurm, Po-Ju Tuan, Peter Peregrine, Arkadiusz Marciniak, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Nikolay Kradin, Andrey Korotayev, Alessio Palmisano, David Baker, Julye Bidmead, Peter Bol, David Christian, Connie Cook, Alan Covey, Gary Feinman, Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Axel Kristinsson, John Miksic, Ruth Mostern, Cameron Petrie, Peter Rudiak-Gould, Barend ter Haar, Vesna Wallace, Victor Mair, Liye Xie, John Baines, Elizabeth Bridges, Joseph Manning, Bruce Lockhart, Amy Bogaard, Charles Spencer
Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization
published pages: E144-E151, ISSN: 0027-8424, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1708800115
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115/2 2019-05-28

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The information about "EVORULES" are provided by the European Opendata Portal: CORDIS opendata.

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