Early-career // Social Learning and Cultural Evolution // Cross-disciplinary

Brace yourself!

21st-22nd June 2018, University of St Andrews (UK)

It is time for out second Society’s annual workshop. Following a successful first edition, held in Manchester last January, we are now organising a two-day multidisciplinary workshop at the University of St Andrews (UK). 

What to expect from this year's workshop?

Interdisciplinary discussion on the state-of-art of research and methods

A platform to exchange on early-career specific issues

Interdisciplinary networking and research showcasing


  • Registration
  • Keynote 1: Eoin O’Sullivan, University of Stirling. Talk title: Searching for a psychological science of social learning in the 20th century’s schools of behaviour and cognition
  • Activity: Social Learning across disciplines: state of the field
  • Activity: Future directions
  • Activity: Studying Social Learning: techniques and methods
  • Open poster session
  • Keynote: Alexis Breen, University of St Andrews. Talk title: Social influences and consequences in animal construction
  • Activity: Issues in early-career research
  • Activity: Working cross-disciplinarily: group-based project proposal
  • Activity: Science communication: Explaining Social Learning on Wikipedia
  • Senior researchers panel: Learnt Perspectives – 20 years of Social Learning
  • Closing

Participants will have the opportunity to present their work, in the form of a poster, to other attendees and to colleagues and senior researchers from the University of St Andrews, in an open-doors event. Research on social learning or on topics with a direct applicability to the field is welcomed.

The event will conclude with a discussion panel of senior researchers discussing their experience in the field and how they have seen it changing:  Learnt Perspectives: 20 years of Social Learning

Follow this link for the detailed workshop programme.

Keynote speakers

Social influences and consequences in animal construction

Many animals select raw material from the surrounding environment and manipulate it into a species-typical construction, such as a nest for occupancy. What role the social environment may play in shaping animal construction (such as the development of material handling, choice of material and/or construction competence) remains poorly understood. I will discuss recent laboratory work on nest construction by birds that explores several of these as-yet-unanswered questions, showing that the social environment can indeed impact animal construction.

Searching for a psychological science of social learning in the 20th century’s schools of behaviour and cognition

The field of social learning research has a long history in psychology, beginning with Edward Thorndike’s early studies of dogs, cats, and chickens, and culminating in a modern, thriving, multi-disciplinary science. While the past 20 years has seen interest in the field surge, researchers are still largely guided by the theoretical schools of cognitive and behavioural science developed in the early and mid-20th century. Here, I will reflect upon how the cognitive, behaviourist, and ethological schools have guided my exploration of social learning mechanisms in human and nonhuman primates. Specifically, I will focus on how these perspectives have informed my approach to the ontogeny of imitative ability in children and capuchin monkeys. I will also expand on how lessons learned from these theoretical schools can guide future work in the science of social learning.​


Prof Malinda Carpenter
University of St. Andrews
Dr Luke Rendell
University of St. Andrews
Dr Ellen Garland (TBC)
University of St. Andrews
Dr Monica Tamariz
Heriot-Watt University
Prof Andrew Whiten
University of St. Andrews

Accommodation in St Andrews

It is easy to find accommodation in St Andrews, either in St Andrews University Accommodation or in one of the several Airbnbs and hotels in town. Early booking is recommended, because the workshop falls within the holiday and golfing season. 

We suggest participants to also check out available accommodation in the nearby Dundee, at a short train or bus journey from St Andrews, for lower room rates. Bus tickets from Dundee to St Andrews Bus Station cost around £9,00 return for a full ticket or £6,00 return for a student ticket. Train tickets between Dundee and Leuchars station cost around £10.80 return and frequent buses service the journey between the station and St Andrews.


The workshop will be at the University of St. Andrews. 

Further information

All participants agree upon application to the workshop that they agree with and adhere to the society’s Code of Conduct. If you have questions about this do not hesitate to contact us.

Our sponsors

Thanks to our generous sponsors that make this workshop possible.

Latest news

Registration is now closed!

We are sorry to announce that Prof Kevin Laland will no longer be able to attend the workshop , due to unforeseen circumstances. Prof Andy Whiten kindly agreed to join the senior researcher panel as a speaker in his stead. Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

Presented posters will be entered into a poster competition, with the best poster, in terms of research quality, novelty of the work and presentation, being selected by a jury of two experts in the field (confirmed: Prof Andy Whiten). Participants who would like to present a poster but not to take part in the competition should let the organising committee know, either in their application or at any point before the start of the workshop.

For more information, contact: workshop2018@yslr.co.uk

Early-career Social Learning Researchers, here is a question for you: if you had to pick three scientific articles or books which changed the way we study social learning, which ones would you choose? #sociallearning

Busy day? Take a break with our magazine Cultured Scene and read all about @damienneadle's recent study: Food cleaning in gorillas and the role of social learning! https://t.co/czbprRgbxR

We invite your #cultconf 2018 abstract submissions for presentations (20 min) and posters that relate to the theme 'Complexity in Culture'. All disciplines welcome! Please email your submissions along with your full name to cultureconference@stir.ac.uk. Deadline 30th April 2018.

Getting ready for the Easter weekend? We suggest a coffee and reading about Sylvain Alem's work on bumblebee culture in the latest issue of Cultured Scene! https://t.co/48Veb1nvlt

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