School of Psychology - Leading psychological science, scholarship and practice

Language and cultural evolution group

Questions about human origins have an enduring fascination. Our group has pioneered the application of computational methods derived from evolutionary biology to answer questions about language and human prehistory.


This work has ranged from resolving hypotheses about the origins of Indo-European languages to testing hypotheses about the peopling of the Pacific, and lead to a string of high-profile publications in journals such as Nature and Science.

The evolution of religion
Religious beliefs and rituals vary enormously in form and function across the globe, but currently we understand very little about what generates and preserves this diversity. We are interested in how different religious characteristics vary across cultures as well as modeling how religions change through time. Our work seeks to characterise patterns of recurrence and variation in religious beliefs and practices around the world to test hypotheses about the forces shaping religious diversity and what it is about the human mind that makes certain types of religious belief particularly appealing.

To learn more about our language research please go to the following links:

Our online databases:


Research staff

Professor Russell Gray

Associate Professor Quentin Atkinson