Faces of ESLR: Juliet Dunstone

My background is originally in Linguistics. I briefly started a maths degree at the University of Newcastle with elective modules in English Language and quickly discovered such a strong preference for linguistics over maths that I switched courses in my second year.

In my final year of my undergraduate degree I did a module on language evolution. This gave me the bug for studying evolution and I went on to complete an MSc in the Evolution of Language and Culture at the University of Edinburgh. Here I discovered the field of cultural evolution, and wrote my dissertation on the contexts in which innovations are introduced in social learning. 

 After a brief foray into a job in academic publishing, I returned to Scotland to study for my PhD at the University of Stirling on the evolution of cognition, and the cognitive capacities for cumulative cultural evolution. My research focuses on metacognition and executive functions, and how these aspects of human cognition may enable uniquely human capacities for cumulative culture. I am more broadly interested in how humans learn from each other and make decisions, and how we evaluate what information is useful to copy. I am also involved in the wider field of culture, cultural evolution and comparative cognition, and am a student representative member of the Cultural Evolution Society. I co-hosted the culture conference in 2019 and was due to organise it again in 2020 but we sadly had to cancel – but we hope to be back for 2021!

I am due to finish my PhD this summer and will be returning to the Centre for Language Evolution, at the University of Edinburgh, to work on a project about the evolution of linguistic complexity.