Funded PhD Studentship

Applications are invited for a full-time PhD studentship in experimental cultural evolution at the University of Bristol in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Project: The effects of social transmission biases on human cultural evolution

A key mechanism driving cultural evolution is the social transmission of information. Humans learn from each other, but there are biases in this learning process that determine what we learn, and, in turn, what information we pass on to others. These biases are central to the evolution of culture. This project will advance our understanding of cultural evolution by taking an experimental approach to examining three main categories of bias in social transmission: the effects of what we learn, from whom we learn and how we learn.

The successful student will collaborate with a team of researchers to create and implement an experimental protocol that will examine the relative effects of biases in social transmission such as survival bias, social bias, prestige bias and transmission pathway bias. Experiments will be carried out in the UK (Bristol), USA (Colorado), Germany (Jena) and Australia (Canberra), with the aim of generalizing the experimental design to diverse populations around the globe. A second-phase pilot project is intended to run in Vanuatu during the three-year project in which the student may collaborate, subject to progress.

This is an exciting opportunity to engage with researchers in cultural evolution, anthropology, ecology, and language sciences. As well as being hosted in the supportive research atmosphere of the Graduate School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Bristol, the student will have the opportunity to establish research connections at the new Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

The student will conduct their research under the primary supervision of Dr Fiona Jordan at the University of Bristol, and engage with a research group of PhD students and postdocs as part of Dr Jordan’s ERC-funded “Cultural Evolution of Kinship” project, starting May 2015. They will also be advised by Dr Michael Gavin (Colorado State University), Dr Simon Greenhill (Australian National University) and Professor Russell Gray (Director, MPI-SSH).

Candidate requirements

The successful candidate will:

  • Have a disciplinary background in a social science such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, linguistics or another relevant field.
  • Fulfil the entrance requirements for a Department of Archaeology & Anthropology MPhil/PhD i.e. hold an M-level qualification in a relevant subject as well as an undergraduate degree at 2:1 or 1st class (or equivalent). See further details on requirements here:
  • Be familiar with experimental research methods involving human participants, and be motivated to design and implement cultural evolution experiments.
  • Be willing and able to travel internationally: to the USA and Germany for project meetings, and (subject to progress) to Vanuatu for run experimental tasks. Travel, subsistence, and research costs will be covered by the project.

Applicants should apply online to study for a full time MPhil/PhD in the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology at the following:

This project is only available for full-time students. See below for funding particulars.

The closing date for applications is January 31st 2015.

Please quote the project title on your application and provide all the required documentation at time of applying.

As this studentship is to work on a specific project, there is no need to provide a complete research proposal. However, you should provide a 300-word (no more than one side of A4) research statement that contains:

  • Your research and disciplinary background to date that is relevant to the project, including your engagement with key literature in cultural evolution, and,
  • A brief proposal that outlines how you might approach one aspect of transmission bias in the experimental design.

The funding is available immediately and it is desirable that the successful candidate starts before March 31st 2015. A later start may be considered in exceptional circumstances. Please indicate in your personal statement when you would be available to commence the studentship.

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Fiona Jordan ( quoting “PhD Experimental Cultural Evolution” in the subject line.

Funding Notes:

The successful candidate will be supported for three years, and will include:

  • A £14,106 per-annum stipend based on 2014/5 rate
  • Tuition fees at UK/EU rate of £4,100 per annum
  • An opportunity to gain paid experience as a Teaching Assistant (subject to availability, qualifications and completing of relevant training)
  • Allowances for research expenses, including computer and recording materials, participant costs, experimental materials, and travel and subsistence costs towards project-specific travel.