Cultural group selection follows Darwin's classic syllogism for the operation of selection

Peter Richerson, Ryan Baldini, Adrian V. Bell, Kathryn Demps, Karl Frost, Vicken Hillis, Sarah Mathew, Emily K. Newton, Nicole Naar, Lesley Newson, Cody Ross, Paul E. Smaldino, Timothy M. Waring, Matthew Zefferman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The main objective of our target article was to sketch the empirical case for the importance of selection at the level of groups on cultural variation. Such variation is massive in humans but modest or absent in other species. Group selection processes acting on this variation is a framework for developing explanations of the unusual level of cooperation between non-relatives found in our species. Our case for cultural group selection (CGS) followed Darwin's classic syllogism regarding natural selection: If variation exists at the level of groups if this variation is heritable and if it plays a role in the success or failure of competing groups then selection will operate at the level of groups. We outlined the relevant domains where such evidence can be sought and characterized the main conclusions of work in those domains. Most commentators agree that CGS plays some role in human evolution although some were considerably more skeptical. Some contributed additional empirical cases. Some raised issues of the scope of CGS explanations versus competing ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e58
JournalBehavioral and Brain Sciences
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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