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University of Exeter researchers offer local clubs and societies £1,000 team challenge

Researchers at the University of Exeter are inviting groups of people from across Cornwall to take part in a fun experiment to help them understand how human culture develops, with a chance to win £1,000 in return.

Dr Alex Thornton and his colleagues, who are based at the University’s Penryn campus are seeking groups of ten adults, who may be a group of friends, or members of a club or a society, to take part in a team challenge which will involve making simple and fun objects.

The groups will take part in the 45-minute activity during which they will create useful objects from everyday materials while having opportunities to learn from others in the group. The best object from each group will then be entered into a competition and the best team overall will be awarded £1,000 prize money, which the team can use for their group or donate to charity.

So far the researchers have recruited participants from sports clubs, community groups, knitting groups and sketch clubs and are looking for more groups around the county to join the project.

Dr Thornton, who is leading the Cultural Minds project said: “We are trying to understand how it is that people are able to produce complex forms of culture such as tools and technologies, which have allowed our species to inhabit the harshest and most remote regions on Earth and even set up a permanent base in space.”

“By getting groups of people to make simple artefacts, we hope to identify how different ways of learning from others allow cultural knowledge to build up over time. The groups that have taken part so far all say that the experience has been a lot of fun!”

The research team, which includes post-doctoral researcher Dr Amanda Lucas and project administrator Emma Davey, are happy to travel to locations where participating groups or societies hold their meetings, if they are within a 30 mile radius of Penryn campus. Alternatively teams are welcome to take part at Penryn campus.

The Cultural Minds Project, based at the University of Exeter's Penryn campus and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is exploring the cognitive processes that make human culture possible incorporating ideas and methods from evolutionary biology, anthropology and cognitive psychology.

To sign up for the experiments, and for further information, please visit the Cultural Minds website.

Date: 17 June 2016

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